Some days ago there were a thread on amiga.org that discussed the future; who of the alternatives in the Amiga OS market would be the dominant winner? I have thought about that and come to a conclusion of which you can read below. This text also involves the Amiga brand, the future of A1 and OS4, as well as OS4 on Pegasos.|
Letís begin with takemehomegrandmas encyclopedia of computer platform creation. :-)
A computer platform is a complex puzzle consisting of many pieces:
To get going you first need the most basic pieces: an operating system (MorphOS) and hardware (Pegasos). These pieces are the very core foundation. Then you need the application/games piece (Aminet, Commercial Amiga/MOS software, and the Super Bundle), but in order to get that piece you have to have the developers piece (Phoenix, Sceners, The Community, etc), but in order to get that piece you must begin to lay down the first pieces of the puzzle (Betatester1/2, Early versions of MorphOS, SDK) and drawing all kinds of creative people towards the platform by making the whole thing visible through the "visability piece" (Visiting trade shows, Public Reviews (OS News, etc), Press and TV, Spreading the word on the community forums). The previously mentioned "developers piece" is essential, and the end result will benefit if this piece is as big as possible (Bring as many other OS'es as possible to the platform and enjoy the cross-fertilization).
Laying this part (the initial construction) of the puzzle is a bit of "which came first, the chicken or the egg". All the pieces are necessary but each piece rely on the other ones allready being there. Therefore you have look at this part of your "puzzling" as a circle of events. But it's not enough to just identify the pieces. To lay the puzzle you need to get organized (PriceWaterhouseCoopers sets up a corporate structure), a great deal of money (Genesi), management (Genesi, Professional external management consultants (can't remember their name)), active support from happy community members (us enthusiastic MOS followers ;-) ), and someone holding it all together and on the right course (BBRV).
After "circling the events" for a while, you will have a solid base for your platform. This is not the end goal. This is the beginning. Let's call this base the "input market" which is a melting pot of community (developers, enthusiasts, alternative computer users, etc), technology, creativity, fun, and business opportunities for everyone interested in making a buck. The end goal, where the big money is and where everyones creative efforts will be channeled to, will be the "output market", and this is the second (and most interesting) part of the puzzle.
What is the "output market" then? Is it the Wintel workstation market? Is it the 1985 computer market that we all remember with joy as the "Amiga era"? I'm afraid that the latter is gone forever (or rather: it became the todays alternative computer market, one of the components of our "input market"). And I think it won't be the wintel kind of market either. That market is overcrowded and is actually shrinking. The MHz race is over. The companies there are in chrisis because they are stuck in the old way of thinking. The IT world is changing now, into something that many calls the "convergence market". My guess is that the future end-user "computing" products is yet to be formed. They might come in several shapes. Many peoples reasoning of "the future of the Amiga/Pegasos" is based on the assumption that there will forever be the same structure of Platforms and "Computers" as we know them today. But what if the future computing products needs to be more context driven, with focus on the customers needs rather than on the actual tower box itself? The computer market has up to now been product oriented. This is about to change, and I think that is obvious.
I think it's amusing to read comments like "Genesi have no future since they only sold 600 units", "how can you expect any developer to be excited over a 600 people userbase", "How can you sell your hardware so cheap", "How can you *give* away the OS" and stuff like that. Hilarious! But these kind of comments is made from the assumption that the "input market" is the final goal. And to many of us people "living" in this input market, it *might be* the end goal and the only important thing. And there is nothing wrong with that. Have fun! :-) But one has to remember that to keep the fire under this melting cup alive (that is: to keep bringing in interesting developers' technology as the PegasosTwo among other, future, devices) one has to succeed on the "output market". STB's, the Psylent, the mobile Eclipsis and various incarnations of these (and other) devices will be a key. That's where the future is secured, not by selling 600 units of Pegasos (or even three times that many, if you know what I mean ;-) ).
And since the OS and the developers' hardware are such key pieces of the puzzle, and the future dollars from the output market is *so totally dependent* on them, don't you think it makes sense to make it as easy as possible for the community in the "input market" to get ahold of them? To make the obstacles to join the evolution as small as possible, so to say? If you look at the OS, it's just one of many components that makes any of the products on the output market, and it only makes sense in combination with the others. Therefore you could make it totally free for the input market. Heck, upload the OS to Kazaa, DC++, and the corporate website to make it *really* easy for people to download it. The wider spread the OS is on developer desktops in the input market, the better for the future convergence products on the output market. Any dongles in this context is utter madness. So is any $8000 motherboards. That only makes sense if you look at the input market as the final goal (and whatís the future in that way of thinking?).
There are (rather: were) one similarity between Amiga Inc (2 years ago) and Genesi. They both see (AInc: saw) business opportunities in the computer convergence market. But the similarities stops there.
Amiga Inc started out in the peak of the dot-com era. They wrote a busines plan with a lot of hype (you only have to look back in time a little on the net to see what I mean. Everything they said was spoken in "dot-com"-ish) and got a Venture Capitalist to fund a company. They licensed some IP from tao (their view of entering this market), and then they invested a lot of time and all that money in ... well, nothing!! Towards the end they decided to try another approach and handed over the AmigaOS to Hyperion and the exclusive right to Amiga branded hardware to Eyetech. That is, they split the key puzzle pieces and gave them away in two separate directions, each by itself. That's all Amiga Inc really achieved in those years. What remains is two separate pieces of a potential puzzle.
Genesi has begun to lay the first part of the puzzle described above. They have released products on the input market and done a lot of other things, but IMO they have not reached the "start line" yet. It will take some more of that "circleing" to get there, but it's no doubt they will get there, because they have allready secured all the pieces under the same umbrella, and they have everything it takes to finish it. They have left the locker room, entered the track, and is beginning to warm up serously before the race. But that doesn't stop them from allready prepearing the route for the second part of the puzzle, the part when the race actually begins.
This part of the puzzle is still kind of vague for us in the community, but some information has been released some day ago. It's about the output market. There has to be some products like hardware (STB's, mobile devices like Eclipsis, etc), OS (MorphOS), Applications and games (Phoenix, Atari), and whatever input Nolan Bushnell and his www.uwink.com brings. There also has to be distribution channels (Atari, Plexuscom, Genesi resellers, etc), a strong brand (Atari), and capital (Atari, Genesi). This part of the puzzle is essential for securing the future development of "our" platform. And IMO it looks kind of promising :-).
Some people also seems to think that OS4 and the A1 are competitors to MorphOS and the Pegasos. I think not! Remember, the race is on the *output market*. If Amiga Inc had played their card differently a couple of years back, then perhaps there would have been a "red puzzle" slowly materializing for this market by now. But that is not the case. Two lonely, isolated pieces of an abandoned puzzle is materializing.
The A1 piece is such an uninteresting piece of hardware that it won't even succeed on the *input* market. OK, some fanatics will buy it because it is said to be the only way to run OS4 at decent speed. That's it!
OS4, will only be sold to some CSPPC owners and the fanatics that buy the A1. That's it! But OS4 has far better chances to succeed on the alternative computer market (our "input market") than the A1, *IF* Hyperion manage to get the OS running on some interesting hardware.
Some people thinks that Genesi should pay money and accept the conditions to get an "Amiga" license. That won't happen, there is no reason for them to do that. The brand has been dead for 10 years or so, except in our little part of the alternative computer market. And now there is this new Atari plan, where the brand only seems to be minor part. Sure the Amiga brand could mean something to get more momentum on the *input* market; more developers attracted to the platform. But they allready have momentum, and the interest for the platform is increasing anyway, much thanks to all the OS'es that's being ported.
It lies within *Hyperions* interest to get their OS running on interesting hardware, and this is nothing that Genesi should be paying *them* for (or rather: the Amiga Inc corpse)! If they can't get their OS to run on interesting hardware, then nobody will use their OS (other than some hundred fanatics). The CSPPC is *NOT* interesting. It's old and slow now. RIP. The A1 is *NOT* interesting, it's hilarious price tag is only one of it's problems when compared to the PegasosTwo. RIP. Hyperion is trapped and their OS effort is riscing to suffocate in it's incubator. But they *could still* try to make their effort pay off on the alternative computer market ("our" input market) via the more sensible PegasosTwo platform. I'm sure they are more than welcome to do that. Lot's of OS'es are/will be running on that platform. The platform is allready gaining attention from international press (even TV) and it will attract all kind of "alternative geeks" (;-)). The resulting cross-fertilization will benefit everyone involved, and everyone is invited. :-)
And I'm sure that Hyperion would really have done this if it would have been possible. But here is the problem. Remember that Eyetech has exclusive right to Amiga branded hardware (but only the HW), so if Hyperion would bring the amiga brand to the Pegasos hardware there would be a trademark infringement/contract violation. This trademark split is what stopping OS4 on Pegasos, not Hyperion and certainly not Genesi (OS4 on Pegasos would only boost the creativity on the Pegasos platform, *and* OS4). The A1 could have benefitted from running MorphOS some six months ago too. It would have been a lot easier for Eyetech to sell that board with an Amiga related OS instead of Linux. But that would have been impossible for the same reason (Hyperion holds the right to the Amiga brand for the OS).
The A1 and OS4 are floating alone on a big ocean. Amiga Inc was planning to lay a puzzle using these two pieces (among lots of others), but didn't want them to start puzzling too much on their own (*must* be a threesome). So AInc tied their hands behind their backs through the conditions of the deal and tied them firmly to their own body. The three depend on each other. Problem is, Amiga Inc is not floating anymore. And they are still tied together. It would be nice if Hyperion would find a way to get around this. I am not particulary interested in the OS4 myself (many of the "reds" think that all Pegasos owners are dying to get OS4; perhaps some, but not all!), but I would try it out among all the other OS'es on this platform if it became available!
When amiga.org had their interview with Ben Hermans, I submitted some questions to find out Bens view of the future, how they would succeed, how anyone thinking about investing time and money into products for their OS would be rewarded. I wanted to know something about their strategies. To me, the future (in the "output market") is more interesting and fundamental than wether the OS will have a CDDA filesystem upon it's initial release (and that kind of questions). Unfortunately, my questions were not forwarded to Ben (perhaps another time?). I asked the same questions to BBRV, and it will be interesting to see their answeres (if the questions gets forwarded, BTW, what happened to that interview?).
OK, debate! :-)