According to the company's bare website containing only a contact form cleverly designed to look like the Amiga GUI, there is an Amiga system called the X1000 coming out this summer. Granted, there's more information than the Transmeta website had for months as Linus Torvalds fans waited for the release of the Crusoe chip. Now before the deluge begins (she's dead, Jim... nobody knows who owns the rights, genius), let's stop and think for a second. I could in less than five paragraphs detail exactly the mistakes made so this article can be about revolutionizing media again.
As far as the rights are concerned Hyperion was awarded full rights even up to Amiga OS 5. The hardware patents went from Amiga to KMOS which renamed itself Amiga. How the A-EON company obtained the patents is unclear, but I'll get into this further, perhaps do a couple interviews as we get closer to release. It's already summer so release should happen any day now (week?).
What's really at stake is avoiding the pitfalls of previous exchanges of this high interest high drama property. First, get rid of the drama. Much of that seems done with as the ownership issues are now settled. So let's be blunt and honest. What else went wrong? Second, don't make huge promises. Porting from Motorola 68k to Power PC took longer than expected because no porting process is that easy especially an OS. Third, make a serious product not a game system. Lastly, shoot for the future and make a system that integrates into networks as well as doing well with multimedia.
I and a few colleagues became involved in the Amiga development projects as well as similar work for Genesi, Phinixi, MorphOS, and others who decided to jump in and all we got was years of being bogged down in philosophical battles, missed payments, and property rights disputes. To add insult to injury, the new Amiga OS was promoted as a game platform. This was the story that haunted the original system, aside from embezzlement. As the legend goes, the minds behind the Amiga promised a gaming system while, thankfully, in the background they had bigger plans and created an industry changing marvel. A company that has such poor understanding of the interests of computer users (this includes consumers and producers of content) and is ignorant of up and coming technologies cannot be expected to fulfill the well founded expectations of the Amiga.
So what did the Amiga do that was so special? It was evident in the mid 80s that the machine could do what no other system could. Users and developers knew why the Amiga was special. The user interface lived up to its name because it truly got out of your way. The multitasking system was a great advancement. It was only ten years later that Windows would be 32 bit. But the hardware was also very advanced. To this day people don't quite appreciate the leap in design which has yet to be repeated. I can go into details, but that would still not explain the magic.
The difference between systems today and the Amiga is that the Amiga was an information processing computer whereas systems today are still data processors which pass the information processing to the software. This is the key. While today's graphics cards produce full frames representing the screen in the background and then switch the back frame to the front, the Amiga did not. The Amiga instead waited for the appropriate time to begin painting the screen and/or changing and modifying the colors to paint it with. On a modern computer if you move a window over or under another you have to modify that part of the memory, repaint the old pixels which now have no objects over them, simulate continuous motion, and get it all done before the next frame. It is possible to do this now, but it is still a clumsy, resource wasting process. The Amiga didn't care about where in the memory the image for your application was. All it cared about was when it should put it up. This was a slight limitation as different resolutions would allow only certain quality in sound to be produced. But it also allowed innovations in creating new color mixtures that computers of its time could not match. And only the Amiga could do zooming in certain resolutions without any processing. Just change the timing. So much power for a system that was 100 times slower in speed than current systems.
Before I go into what A-EON should do, let me leave you with a recent dilemma that is in the same vein as this important difference. Flash development is marred by the fact it is frame based. Everything must be done frame by frame rather than in a full blown programming environment. It's a hindrance which Silverlight tries to remedy. But then you are dealing with a company responsible for a browser that tripled the cost of development of websites around the world. People aren't putting up with it anymore. Let's just remember the main advantage which is likely to become very important soon as more people want to combine resources. The Amiga did in hardware, not merely by support, but by design, what systems today still do in software. Rendering farms are getting an improvement in this same vein. In order to make simulations running over networks work efficiently the networking stack of the system has been moved to special network devices. When you have thousands to millions of requests from many machines the networking software stack is a severe bottleneck. This job has been moved to the networking hardware which projects itself even as just a hard drive or processor as if it were local. The network is entirely transparent. The hardware still uses software for the stack but it leaves the farm computers to the task of actually turning data into information.
Again, that is the magic. Doing information processing by design in hardware simplifies the user interfaces, software development (especially drivers), and by being able to produce software quickly coders can actually code more in communities and do this quickly enough to reduce the cost of playing and brainstorming ideas without forming a detailed plan which must be approved. Being able to just try it out and see changes everything. I cannot stress this enough. The information oriented platform is responsible for the thinking behind Photogenics. Every action in the image is modifiable. Photogenics was one of the few Photoshop like applications for the Amiga that gave you non-linear editing. Nowadays, to do the same you would need to create a new layer for each step you might want to change. Again, layers, frames, background drawing, the old clumsy concept persists.
The only difficulty A-EON has is getting both new and old users and developers involved. There is a clash of communities that can make or break the company. The Free Software, Open Source community produces marketable and profitable software collaboratively and quite quickly. The old guard of the Amiga still hang onto shareware distribution which includes nagware, spyware, crippleware, and other kinds of annoyances that are supposed to encourage you to purchase. A-EON needs to foster both community and sales for developers. The Amiga fans are rabid as are the coders who made software for it. They will reward a company that appreciates them and the platform (software and hardware) like no other fans. We'll see if A-EON treats them like partners or just a market to peddle promises to.