Amiga Foreverby Cloanto
 
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Amiga OS: Village Dimension Competing in a Metropolitan World?

This is the original text published in an April 1996 Cloanto newsletter, and reprinted with permission in the July 1996 issue of Amiga Shopper.

We all know that "village life" is better than "city life", don't we? People look straight and sincerely into your eyes, handshakes express strength, there is a community feeling, everybody knows how to deal with daily problems, and when there is a more serious project to work on, it can probably be approached by a one-man organization. You feel like you are in control of everything. Even operating systems fit on a few DD floppy disks.

In big cities, life is different, more complex. There is no overview: you can easily get lost. Everything is so vast that operating systems fill one or more CD-ROMs. Of course, that's the way it has to be: hundreds of millions of people "plug and play" thousands of different printers, graphic cards, sound boards, networks, modems, mice, CD-ROMs, DVDs, MIDI, MPEG, ISDN, videoconferencing systems, speech recognition, 3D audio, disability features, legacy software...

Then, of course, there is the internet, which not so many years ago was like a little village, and which now epitomizes the wildest of all cities. In the streets, Microsoft and Netscape fire HTML extensions at each other, trying to slow down, if not kill, the other. Innocent blood flows, as the load becomes too heavy for villagers: Java Virtual Machine, JavaScript, Active X, RealAudio, ActiveMovie, QuickTime, Acrobat, Type 1 Fonts, TIFF extensions, PNG, VRML, SET, JIT compilers, higher screen resolutions, frames, style sheets, telephony, digital signatures, encryption, secure sockets and protocols, merchant servers, home servers...

The Amiga community has always managed to prosper in a village dimension, but now it is facing hard times. Its buildings are getting old, and most of the people who should take care of them left the village years ago. The birthrate has fallen: there are no more PET and C64 generations to help the community. The remaining young boys and girls grow, play, study, acquire experience and become strong in the village, but they soon leave. Most of the best are going downtown, where even the rich village developers are investing their money. And those who keep blindly loving village life are now considering a new place, where the bees fly in pairs. The consumer market was one of the last to be invaded, but now it is happening: metropolitan OSes and metropolitan Web browsers (almost an OS themselves) are here, fighting for life in our dusty village streets.

Outside the "village niche", critical mass becomes another issue: OS/2 and the Macintosh, more "metropolitan" than the Amiga, have a much larger and wealthier market share than the Amiga, but even their tales speak about corporate headaches and disadvantaged users. If you don't reach a critical mass, you cannot afford to make the necessary investments, and you starve. The size of this critical mass is growing, as is the quantity and the complexity of systems, and universal component technology isn't mature enough to reestablish a balance where "small is good".

While the new set-top box perspectives provide some reassuring protection for Amiga technology, there is no doubt that the next few years will bring some exciting challenges for the software developers who are left in the village...