Sunday, July 24, 2011

Too Many Amigas!

No, I'm not talking about my Facebook friends list. I'm talking about the brand name "Amiga" as in those fantastic computers Commodore used to make in the early 1990's.

Commodore may have gone bust, but Amiga never really went away. The properties have been bought and sold and passed around so much I'll just say if you want a lesson in how the vultures rip apart the carcass of a bankrupt tech company read the Wikipedia page.

If you didn't bother reading that just know ownership of Amiga passed through a number of companies (including Gateway) until ultimately culminating in Amiga Inc. But here's where things get tricky! The current version of Amiga OS (yes they kept developing it!) belongs to a Belgian company called Hyperion Entertainment. Rights to update the previous versions belongs to a German company called Haage & Partner. A new Amiga-compatible computer called the x1000 is being made by a Belgian company called A-Eon in partnership with Hyperion Entertainment and a British company called Varisys as the hardware partner actually delivering the goods.

So where, you may ask, is Amiga, Inc. in all of this? Well, in 2001 they had entered into an agreement with the AmigaOne Partners (collectively Hyperion Entertainment and Eyetech Group Ltd), but that license agreement was terminated in 2006. Today Amiga Inc. only sells rebranded Linux and Android tablets directly and through some kind of fundraising program for other organizations and has an embedded device software called "Amiga Anywhere" - thought exactly what it is and does is sort of vague. It apparently isn't vaporware as it was available on products from several "distributors, resellers, and marketing partners" - most of which no longer appear to be in business as their web sites are gone. Also, I think that 2007 support for Linux and Symbian devices isn't going to get anyone too excited (what with Symbian going the way of the dodo too).

Ah! But that's not all folks, we have yet another company in the mix: Commodore USA, LLC The Florida startup with the resurrected brand name says they have also secured the rights to sell Amiga branded computers from - wait for it - Amiga, Inc.! For some reason the new Commodore has chosen to give these new computers the same model numbers as original Amigas. Furthermore these computers are no more Amigas than a Mac or a Dell. The cases look pretty cool but are nothing new or unique either and have been available since 2005 from Karma Digital's distributors! You can buy the cases yourself for between $110 - $300, put in your own PC components, buy an Amiga sticker online and build your own better faux-Amiga and likely for less money. Commodore also says these will have "Commodore OS" on them, which I gather is just a Linux distro, and some mention of being AROS compatible (most likely the "Icaros Desktop" distro of that). But that's not hard to do since AROS has been ported to the Intel-compatible architecture. Heck, I can boot up Icaros Dekstop on most of my computers, and some of them are pretty old.

Side note: For the uninitiated AROS is a free open source operating system that is mostly compatible with AmigaOS 3.1. There are distributions of it (much like there are different distros of Linux) with the most popular being "Icaros Desktop." There is also "AROS Broadway" and "AROS Aspire." There is also "MorphOS" (which is gorgeous btw) that isn't a distro but uses parts of AROS (MorphOS is only for the PowerPC architecture).

If anyone from Commodore happens upon this blog post, well, I seriously want you guys to succeed because I loved my old C64 and lusted after an Amiga and want to see the company truly come back from the dead. But slapping some Commodore and Amiga stickers on off-the-shelf parts and rebranded systems and selling them for a huge markup to cash in on nostalgia isn't a sustainable business plan. Commodore was a true innovator who sold hardware that gave customers actual value. Maybe if they did that they'd have the revenue to BUY the name rather than just license it from Commodore Licensing, BV.

So, anyway to sum up we have:
Haage & Partner with the rights to update AmigaOS 3.x.
Hyperion Entertainment with the rights to AmigaOS 4.x.
A-Eon partnered with them and Varisys to make truly new Amiga computers.
Amiga Inc., selling rebranded tablets and licensing Commodore USA to pretty much do the same.

It would be so nice if it was all under one roof again (or had never been sent to the four corners of the Earth in the first place). This brand dilution is only going to lead to confusion over what's what and what is a "real" Amiga reborn.

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