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It’s nearly November and the AmigaOne is due to go on sale at the WoA-SE in London, England on November 3rd 201 - right? No, we’re sorry but the AmigaOne wont be on sale until the New Year. Is this the ultimate disaster to befall the Amiga community? Is the AmigaOne another Boxer? Is this the real end of Amiga as we know it? Certainly not.
Before you rush out and declare that Nostradamus was right in his predictions about the Amiga all along please take a few minutes to read the inside story of what has really been going on behind the scenes with the AmigaOne and OS4.0 development and why, despite all the odds, it is actually all going to happen very soon.
Amiga Inc took over the Amiga intellectual property (IP) in December 1999, at the very height of the dot.com boom - and Amiga Inc, although not a dot.com company themselves, were very much part of the technology sector. They easily got their first round of funding - but when they needed more cash 8 months later - and as predicted in their original business plan - technology companies were about as fashionable as British beef. Even the most sensible, conservative business plans from proven companies in the technology sector failed to raise any significant cash. What is more, not only were the venture capitalists unwilling to invest but, in many cases they themselves were also fighting for survival (and this included one of Amiga’s and TAO’s main backers). Bill McEwen has never made any secret about how tight things were financially at his widely reported banquet speeches at St Louis and Sacramento this year.
To their enormous credit Amiga Inc have not only managed to survive the last 14 months on not much more than fresh air, but they have managed to deliver some - though not all - of what they intended in terms of technology and some high profile contracts. Remarkably they have also managed to befriend some significant new investors - Amiga’s future is now looking very positive. But in order to survive on a very tight budget finance spending has to be prioritised very carefully - in todays financial climate potential investors are only interested in very lean companies that think at least 20 times before committing to any expenditure. Amiga’s clear priority was (and is) making the Amiga DE a success which inevitably meant that OS4’s funding had to take second place. And OS4.0 is fundamental to the AmigaOne.
Unlike Amiga, Eyetech is privately financed. That means that our resources are based on past profits, and we are not set up to raise funding from venture capitalists or the public. On the plus side it means that we can take decisions quickly without investors painstakingly examining every facet of our business. The downside is that one big mistake could be disastrous for the company and our employees. Our funding of the development of the AmigaOne project was a calculated risk, but one we believed would pay us an adequate return in the medium term. We went into this venture with our eyes wide open, knowing the risks associated with the two main program dependencies which were, to a greater or lesser extent, outside our control. The first was Escena’s ability to develop the custom chipsets needed for the AmigaOne. And the second was Amiga Inc’s ability to deliver OS4.0 by the time the hardware was ready to go into production.
It is true that we had some early setbacks with the hardware development. This was mainly with the AmigaOne’s PCB layout, which was not strictly speaking within Escena’s field of expertise, but which was so inextricably linked with the custom chip design that putting it out to subcontract would have been both counterproductive and very expensive. And why, whilst we are on the subject, did we decide that a custom chipset was necessary in the first place? There were, and are still, three compelling reasons.
This has also been quite complex to implement, but is based on pre-tested core modules which form the core of Escena’s expertise.
However in May this year, although some work had already started on OS4.0 it became clear that the Amiga Inc’s had other priorities for the limited funding that they had available - that is for the DE development. This meant that the funding that was needed from Amiga Inc to finish OS4.0 was not available on schedule and this was starting to have a material effect on its development timeframe. Hope was still high that funding would be imminent, but venture capitalists do not make investment decisions lightly or quickly in the wake of a tech stock melt down. Without a guaranteed delivery time we, Eyetech, effectively suspended the development of the AmigaOne pending a resolution of the OS4.0 developments. Escena in the meantime undertook some mission-critical (and far better paid) contract work for some internationally renowned blue chip companies. And just to make it absolutely clear, I have absolutely no issues with Amiga Inc’s decisions in allocating their priorities in this way - I would have done exactly the same in their position. Similarly the decision to suspend the AmigaOne development was ours, and ours alone.
Since then we have been working hard with Amiga Inc to seek a practical resolution to the development of OS4.0. After many months, and more than a few dead ends we have finally worked out a tripartite agreement between ourselves, Amiga Inc and Hyperion. This allows the development of OS4.0 to start immediately - and at no upfront cost to Amiga Inc - whilst allowing them to build on the work done in OS4.0 for the development of OS4.2 and beyond. As well as guaranteeing a path to allow the AmigaOne development to be finished and for it to go into production, it also gives an absolute guarantee of the development of the operating system for the AmigaOne beyond OS4.0. And as part of this agreement Hyperion will also be releasing OS4.0 for the CyberStormPPC accelerator for the A3/4000, which must be this years best news for owners of these Big Box Amigas.
Of course Hyperion are not developing OS4.0 alone, rather they are heading a consortium of well known and respected Amiga developers, including Haage & Partner, the Picasso96 team, Matay, Olaf Barthel and many others.
So the best news of all is that this agreement - which will finally and unequivocally fix the path forward for Classic Amiga owners everywhere - will be signed this weekend at the London-based WoA-SE show on 3rd November. It has taken many hours of negotiation to sort out the details, but now it is in place the last major hurdle to the Next Generation Amiga has been overcome. All parties are now working flat out once more to ensure that OS4.0 and the AmigaOne can now be launched in tandem early in the New Year.
Thank you all for your patience and understanding.