Okay, this is my proposal for the FAQ. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. And don't hesitate to tell me if you're missing some stuff.
Who/what is Amiga Inc., who "owns" the Amiga today?
In Summer 1999, two former employees of Gateway-Amiga founded their own company "Amino Inc.". At december 31st, 1999, they bought the Amiga brand name, the intelectual property and a license to use related patents from Gateway for 5 million dollars. They immediately renamed their company to Amiga Inc. Amiga is now a privately held company located in Snoqualmie, Washington.
What is AmigaDE?
AmigaDE ("Amiga Digital Environment") is Amiga Inc.'s main product. It is not related to the "classic" Amiga in any way.
Basically, AmigaDE is an Operating System. But unlike other Operating Systems (Windows, MacOS) it is not compiled to run on a certain processor, it runs on a so-called "Virtual Processor" (VP) instead. This Virtual Processor does not exist as real hardware, but it is heavily optimised to be as easy (and fast) to emulate as possible. In fact, emulation of the VP is efficient enough to come very close to native code. There are VP emulators for a lot of different processors (e.g. x86, PPC, MIPS, Alpha, StrongARM...).
The fact that AmigaDE is built upon that Virtual Processor makes it "hardware agnostic": The Operating System itself (aswell as any application written for it) will run on any processor - as long as there's a VP emulator available for it. Amiga Inc. describes this concept as "Compile once - run everywhere".
Software developers benefit very much from this concept: To support different platforms, they don't have to "port" their application to a different processor or a different OS. They just develop for AmigaDE, compile their application *once* and it will run on every device that has AmigaDE installed.
Another advantage of AmigaDE is that it can run "hosted" on another OS (just think of WinUAE and you get the concept). You don't have to reboot your machine into AmigaDE, it simply runs on top of your main OS.
But it can also run native (being the only OS on your computer), if ressources are low (e.g. when running on a PDA), if you want to get the best performance or if you don't need any other OS.
And finally, AmigaDE is completely "scalable". It detects the ressources that are available and automatically adopts its feature set. Imagine AmigaDE running on a full blown desktop computer: It would offer support for 3D hardware, a skinnable GUI and a powerful desktop. The same AmigaDE running on a PDA would (due to the low ressources) be just a simple 2D GUI (graphical user interface) and an application launcher. Even applications running on AmigaDE can automatically scale down to match the available ressources (imagine a raytracer that automatically offers realtime previews only if powerful 3D hardware is available).
Is AmigaDE suitable for desktop computers?
There are already typical desktop applications developed for AmigaDE and Amiga's ultimate goal is to have AmigaDE running everywhere, including desktops. Currently it runs hosted on various "alien" Operating Systems (Windows, Linux, WinCE, Unix, Symbian) and native on smaller (embedded) devices like PDAs or Settop boxes.
But releasing a native version for desktop computers proved to be impractical at the moment, due to several reasons:
1. Amiga is/was extremely low on cash. They simply do not have the ressources that are required to develop and support a native desktop OS (just think of the x86 market with its myriad of different configurations). This will/should get better once DE takes off (in fact, is *is* already getting better).
2. AmigaDE is based on TAO's "Elate" (see below). Elate is targeted at embedded devices and the like. It lacks stuff like Memory Protection or Virtual Memory, which is essential for a desktop Operating System. TAO refuses to implement this technology at the moment.
So a native desktop version of AmigaDE has been put on hold for now (of course, you can still run DE hosted on your current OS). Instead, development of the classic AmigaOS has been restarted (see below).
Who is TAO? How are they related to Amiga Inc.?
AmigaDE is not entirely Amiga's own baby. It is based on technology developed by TAO. Basically, TAO delivers the VP concept, the VP emulators and further low-level stuff like the kernel or the DOS. On top of that, Amiga develops the GUI, the desktop, and all multimedia related stuff (3D/2D APIs, filetype handling etc.).
So what about AmigaOS 4? What's that?
Once Amiga Inc. realised that they would need another one or two years to make a native desktop version of the AmigaDE available, they had a problem:
They still wanted to target the general desktop user. They could offer hosted versions of AmigaDE to desktop users, but to get the best performance and the most functionality out of it, they would have to control the host OS too. Obviously, Amiga Inc. does not control Windows or Linux, so they had to come up with another solution.
That's when they remembered that they already had a pretty good (though somewhat outdated) desktop OS available: AmigaOS. They decided to continue developement on this one - it would allow them to offer desktop users the best performance/feature set possible until native desktop versions of AmigaDE are available.
Additionally, this would ensure that the existing community (developers, traders, user groups, users - the infrastructure in general) wouldn't be dead when they finally aimed at the desktop market again.
And finally, they could use AmigaOS to implement technologies which are not needed for a hosted AmigaDE (or AmigaDE running on embedded devices) but are essential once AmigaDE will run native on desktop computers (3D driver support, a hardware abstraction layer etc.).
- completely PPC native
- does not need the custom chips anymore (but can use them, if they are available)
- backwards compatability for existing Amiga software (as long as it doesn't do any "nasty" things)
- complete GUI (Graphical User Interface) overhaul, completely skinnable GUI
- Virtual Memory, Ressource Tracking, Memory Protection
- all major components will get updated (Filesystem, TCP/IP stack etc.)
- transparently integrated AmigaDE
AmigaOS4 will run on the AmigaOne (see below) and classic Amiga computers equipped with PowerPC accellerator cards.
What is AmigaOS5?
Once both AmigaDE and AmigaOS4 have been established and AmigaDE gained a significant market share, both systems will merge to form the native desktop version of AmigaDE.
Details on AmigaOS5 are sketchy at the moment. Just imagine AmigaOS4 beeing rewritten in VP (and therefore being as "hardware agnostic" and scalable as the AmigaDE currently is) and you get the idea.
What's the AmigaOne? What OS will run on it?
When Amiga Inc. still planned to release a native desktop version of DE, they came up with the concept of the "AmigaOne". An AmigaOne was basically a machine with up-to-date specs and any processor supported by AmigaDE. The "One" in "AmigaOne" stands for "unifying": Due to the concept of the AmigaDE, you wouldn't have had to worry about the specific hardware you are using: "just buy what gives you the best price/performance ratio. If you've got a Alpha based computer lying around, that's fine for us".
Now that the plans have changed, an AmigaOne is simply a PPC computer with PCI and AGP slots, USB and IDE on board and FireWire either on board or as a PCI card. The AmigaOne will run AmigaOS4. The A1 uses only standard, of the shelve hardware. In fact, it looks pretty much like a Mac hardware-wise.
Some AmigaOnes (there will be different models) will offer the possibility to attach an A1200 motherboard. With such a motherboard attached, an AmigaOne will be able to run software (e.g. games) that require the Amiga custom chips that were used in earlier Amiga models.
Amiga Inc. itself is not building hardware anymore. Any hardware manufacturer that has developed a machine that matches the AmigaOne specifications can license the trademark "AmigaOne" and label his product "AmigaOne".
The most famous AmigaOne is the AmigaOne1200, developed by Eyetech (http://www.eyetech.co.uk
), but there are other hardware manufacturers working on AmigaOne compatible machines.