September 17, 1999 4:00 PM PDT

Gateway shelves plans for new Amiga PC

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In another sad twist in the long saga of the Amiga computer, would-be savior Gateway has scrapped plans develop a new Amiga machine.

Instead, the PC maker's Amiga subsidiary will focus on opportunities in the emerging information-appliance market as Amiga redefines itself as a software company, president and chief executive Tom Schmidt said in a letter posted today on the company's Web site.

"To be honest, the ability for us to deliver the [multimedia computer] was unrealistic," the letter stated. "Furthermore, I have fundamentally decided that it would be better to partner with a wide variety of hardware partners, rather than compete against them with a product of our own."

Schmidt's letter was posted after CNET News.com reported that sources said plans for an Amiga computer had been dropped.

The economics of making a computer for a small number of loyal Amiga followers apparently did not make sense to Gateway, even though Gateway's Amiga unit said as recently as July it would offer a new computer. But that announcement was followed by the sudden departure of former president Jim Collas, raising doubts among Amiga's fans about the company's direction.

Schmidt said in his letter that the company reevaluated its plans to build an Amiga computer after Collas' departure. Those plans now call for tiny Amiga to focus on building software for set-top boxes and Internet appliances, including devices based on the Linux operating system.

This is Schmidt's strategy as stated in a letter earlier this week: He wants Amiga software "running on every type of device imaginable, on top of every other operating system out there." That element of Gateway's strategy has not changed since CNET News.com first outlined the plan in July. But dropping plans for building an Amiga PC, at least for now, is a sudden departure for the company.

Lack of a new computer worries long-suffering fans of the Amiga, which has something of a cult-like following. But users are still holding out hope for a new computer that runs the Amiga operating system.

A collection of Amiga fans, including hardware and software engineers, have organized a group called the Phoenix Platform Consortium that is planning on creating reference designs for its own Amiga computer. A company in Germany called Phase 5, which sells products such as processor uprgade cards for Macintosh and Amiga computers, is also working on a desktop machine that is slated for release in early 2000 that would be backward-compatible with older versions of the Amiga operating system.

Schmidt said that Amiga would consider licensing the hardware design Amiga had come up with in order to satisfy current users.

 

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