These days, things tend to be dominated by the biggest powers; there is always one or two big names that usually dominate some market. And when there are smaller contenders that start to have dimension, the big guys usually just swallow the small ones whole (getting rid of competition and gaining valuable assets in the process; they were gaining market share after all).
In the computer world, things are very similar: There is one big giant, Microsoft, and then the alternative, Apple. Linux comes as a community effort, difficult to deal with for it’s nature, but then again it is not much in the way of competition. Although things have improved immensely lately (Ubuntu springs to mind), Linux distros tend to be geek-oriented, and some simple task require a lot of fiddling around for the general user (and, too often, terminal shenanigans).
In my youth, there was more in the mix: the PC was a horribly grey machine, with a clear target: business. Then there was OS/2 running on PCs, and a few less-known OSs. The Mac was expensive, elitist, forward-thinking, closed and incompatible. The Atari was a machine I never had much contact with, but was very popular too. Then there was the Amiga.
A very interesting machine, with a ground-breaking form-factor, innovative, dedicated and powerful hardware, lots of expansion options, and a reasonable price tag. The AmigaOS was elegant, small, fast, efficient, multitasking, and very advanced in many ways (some even today). It had everything to become The Platform, but it was not to be. Still, it had many years of prosperity (mainly as a games machine, before the Wolfenstein era, wich broke the “business” tags on PCs), before evolution simply froze and the platform was slowly abandoned until it became a small niche market.
Today, after years of effort (and also lots of destructive criticism) from the Amiga community, things seem to start shaping up again. Hyperion has held on to the AmigaOS and kept (slowly) developing; and finally, it seems we might actually have some (easily accessible) hardware to run it on, with ACube’s Sam440.
But is it really worth the bother, in these days of megacorporations? I think it is.
The Amiga might still have a future in dedicated, embedded, industrial, public, and mobile environments. Niche markets, I know, but I don’t see the Amiga getting up there, stealing market share from Microsoft or Apple anytime soon. So, what do we need to be sucessful in the short run?
First, Hyperion should make sure the OS is ready to fulfil integrators’ desires. It’s great to have an amazing desktop OS, but they should address the embedded needs too. We need Java (1.5 at least), we need a stable OS, we need a good set of drivers, we need easy networking, we need simple and secure remote access, etc. I would love using AmigaOS for my industrial and domotics projects!
Then, the motherboards should be priced lower quickly. I don’t mind being an early adopter, and pay 500 Euro for the board alone to play around and start development, but it must come down to at least 200 Euro before integrators can start considering it. Maybe the new Flex board will be within this price range.
Identity might not be a problem now, but in the future we should better define the Amiga computer. The boards should probably be sold with special enclosures, to give identity and soul to the machines.
For the long run, there is this problem that the Amiga does not have a single company behind it just now. Amiga Inc. today is a slim, modified shadow of it’s former self, and has nothing to do with the original Amiga vision. The vision has survived in the core of the community. Lots of great talents keep the spirit alive today. But I think we need more in the long run, we need a name and a brand, a sound strategy and a banner we can rise. Or maybe I’m just thinking “Apple” too much.
I hope Hyperion get to keep AmigaOS from the lawsuit. At least they are showing good work done, not vapourware, and probably deserve to reap the rewards of their work.
Here’s hoping the Amiga can make a real comeback this time.