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Old 08 November 2010, 16:03   #1
antonvaltaz
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Doomed from the start

Warning: this post contains pointless speculation.

I've been thinking a bit about the death of the Amiga lately. I've seen a lot of people ask a lot of "what ifs" - what if Commodore marketed the A1000 better, what if the AGA chipset had been released earlier, what if they'd focused on their core Amiga business earlier.

But I'm wondering if the Amiga's death wasn't inevitable - even *before* the launch of the A1000.

Commodore were criticised for not properly deciding whether the Amiga was to be marketed as a 'home' computer or a professional 'business' computer. However, I don't think they ever had any long-term prospects in either sector. By 1985, IBM compatibles were already dominant in the business world (even if they were not yet a virtual monopoly). IBM's decision to use commodity parts, along with the emergence of compatible clone PCs like Compaq's, meant that they would *inevitably* become more affordable - even to home users - making the very concept of 'home computers' entirely redundant.

So my argument is that, for all the undoubted management and marketing incompetence at Commodore, there is literally nothing they could have done to save the Amiga from commercial oblivion. It never stood a chance.

Thoughts?
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Old 08 November 2010, 16:23   #2
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While its maybe true that ultimately IBM-PC would become the dominant platform, that doesnt mean there wont be niche`s in which another platform could survive.
Apple did it, and a competently marketed and evolving Amiga could`ve atleast taken that spot.

Anyway, I think most people forgot how painful Windows and DOS where to use and program (before Win2K). For that reason alone Im sure even the IBM-PC couldve been beaten.
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Old 08 November 2010, 16:45   #3
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But then Apple aimed for - and quickly achieved - dominance in a particular professional sphere, ie. print and design. What could have been Amiga's niche - desktop video? In that arena it was always seen as a cheap-and-cheerful alternative to SGI workstations and the like: not a very prestigious position.

I also don't buy the argument that people use the best available technology. People are stubborn idiots: they like to use what they know, even if there are better alternatives. Plus there would have been substantial costs involved in businesses changing IT platform, after significant investment. It was never going to happen.
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Old 08 November 2010, 19:30   #4
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>IF C= had given at the time licenses for building Amiga compatibles...
>THEN windoze and all the stuff we know as computing standards today would only be a bad memory from the past, described as the momentary attempt of Micro$oft to make a user friendly OS...
>ELSE C= (and Atari, let's not forget) let all the market become a literal monopoly of their rivals..
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Old 08 November 2010, 19:31   #5
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Originally Posted by antonvaltaz View Post
But then Apple aimed for - and quickly achieved - dominance in a particular professional sphere, ie. print and design. What could have been Amiga's niche - desktop video? In that arena it was always seen as a cheap-and-cheerful alternative to SGI workstations and the like: not a very prestigious position.
homevideo certainly, also DPaint was widely used for kind of game-development for a long time. Alot of 3D-Rendering packages began its live on the Amiga aswell.
So it was suited well in realtime multimedia niches, and during its life it had good programs for practically any purpose (including DTP). Some of those programs came to late and weren't really pushed - which falls back to Commodore again, they just did nothing.
A complete, affordable Office Suite would've gone a long way on making Amiga viable for business and general users and having its unique strengths on top.
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I also don't buy the argument that people use the best available technology. People are stubborn idiots: they like to use what they know, even if there are better alternatives. Plus there would have been substantial costs involved in businesses changing IT platform, after significant investment. It was never going to happen.
It did happen and still does, servers did change from dominantly RISC platform to x86 end of the 90s, and alot did migrate between OS`s several times.

I dont know why you bring up that "big-business" again, let the servers and accounting run on IBM-PC for all I care. That still leaves out tons of space for CAD, games/video/multimedia, DTP which Amiga was in a better position to tackle. And then theres the home-user market aswell, which wasnt really absorbed by the IBM-PC until Win95, and how lively and productive it was is documented by Aminet. DOS and Win3.1 sucked colossal amounts of manure, even if thats not enough to make big conservative companies converts overnight, its more than enough to consider alternatives for new or technological driven companies.

Its still a big bag of "ifs", but the main issue is that the Amiga sold quite good through "word of mouth" alone, what was lacking is marketing and push in the professional space.
Also, in the long term the Amiga would have to become more "modular", ie. being able to take standard Gfx/Sound Cards. This was realized by Commodore before they went under, but never fully materialized in the OS. Apart from the chipset, the Amiga already was a bunch of commodity parts, so arguable even if it would've survived it would look alot like IBM-PC`s today.
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Old 08 November 2010, 20:41   #6
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I dont know why you bring up that "big-business" again, let the servers and accounting run on IBM-PC for all I care. That still leaves out tons of space for CAD, games/video/multimedia, DTP which Amiga was in a better position to tackle.
See I think you underestimate the importance of professional/business environments for widespread adoption, particularly amongst non-techies. Far more people must have been introduced to computers through their work than out of personal interest, and those machines for a long time now would have been an x86 PC, running a Microsoft operating system. In the '80s and through to the early/mid '90s, having such a machine at home would have been too expensive for most people and unnecessary (it wasn't expected of you). Hence home computers: affordable prices, and for people who are actually interested in computers.

I think you're right about the mid-90s (around the launch of Windows 95) being a tipping point, but unlike you perhaps I think that it was inevitable. I don't think it was actually *because of* Windows 95. Rather, by this point non-techies could start to see the point of having a computer in the home - for professional or general use - and by this time also prices were low enough that they could get one which 'worked' with the computer they used at work. So naturally they chose a Microsoft-based x86.

My (perhaps more contentious) point is that while this may not have been evident until the mid-90s, with the benefit of hindsight we can see that this process was already well underway - and probably irreversible - by 1985.

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So it was suited well in realtime multimedia niches, and during its life it had good programs for practically any purpose (including DTP).
But that generally resulted in it being a bit of a 'jack-of-all-trades, master of none': great for us computer enthusiasts who enjoyed messing around with it, but for people who had specific (usually professional) requirements it fell short.

As far as I can see it never achieved the commercial dominance in any one area that Apple had in DTP etc (and, in the US I believe, school education). Perhaps Commodore could have been fully determined to pursue the professional video/multimedia route, but then it wouldn't have been a real 'home computer' (in the sense of covering all bases and being targeted at the amateur computer enthusiast) and not really an Amiga as we know it in spirit. The Macintosh certainly wasn't a home computer in that sense, and I think that is probably why it survived.

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A complete, affordable Office Suite would've gone a long way on making Amiga viable for business and general users and having its unique strengths on top.
Would it though? OpenOffice / LibreOffice is 100% free, and runs on bog-standard Windows PCs, and yet a lot of people are still reluctant to use it. Why? Partly because they are used to Microsoft Office, partly because they want things to be 100% compatible - and you will still find differences of formatting etc. when transferring a file from one to the other.

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It did happen and still does, servers did change from dominantly RISC platform to x86 end of the 90s, and alot did migrate between OS`s several times.
Fair point but I really was talking about desktop computers for end users (I probably wasn't very clear though).
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Old 08 November 2010, 22:09   #7
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C= managed to go from world most sold home computer (C64) to we have nothing. Then Lorraine (amiga) fell into their lap and they repeated the same mistake again.

So yes doomed from start.

Even if the next gen amiga would have been around, it would probably would have gone the way of the 3DO, Jaguar, 32X, fm-towns if it went against the PSX.
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Old 08 November 2010, 22:53   #8
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I think about this a lot too

The Amiga was streets ahead most stuff between 1985 - 1992. I remember the PC dominated the office sector as you say and always thought the Amiga didn't stand much of a chance against it...

It's a shame because by the time 1993 came around - AGA was too late and rushed, corners cut etc. C= cancelled certain projects which pretty much sealed the fate of our beloved machine...

Alas, I don't think AAA could have saved Amiga either as the PC was starting to gather hold and with the console market hotting up/developers fleeing the Amiga after the speculation it was going down the pan everything just dried up.

They just didn't stay ahead of the game sadly, it was stuck in 1985 most of its life with the OCS 'enhanced' for 9 years of its short life. So, yep it was doomed from the start. They made something incredible and it took the competition all that time to catch up... so i'm not sad. Just glad they made the Amiga as good as they did... which is the reason they still power up
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Old 09 November 2010, 13:47   #9
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Alas, I don't think AAA could have saved Amiga either as the PC was starting to gather hold and with the console market hotting up/developers fleeing the Amiga after the speculation it was going down the pan everything just dried up.
Yeah consoles were perhaps the other aspect of the death of the 'home computer'. Once consoles became socially acceptable for anyone other than teenage boys - and the PSX was probably the beginning of this trend, again in the mid-90s - it became pretty commonplace to have a console in your house for the games, and a Windows PC for 'serious stuff': a trend which continues today (PC games as I understand it have always sold a fraction of the numbers of console games).

So there was no future for home computers = no future for Amigas. Didn't matter what Commodore did (or didn't do). Yes they were crap, but even if they were awesome, the same outcome was inevitable.
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Old 10 November 2010, 00:46   #10
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It's a very good question.
Personally...I think it was doomed from the moment Commodore got hold of it.
If they had marketed it at the home in '85, not '87, then perhaps it could have entrenched itself.
I think the hardware and OS sold themselves early on, and it was very dominant in Europe, some of our cousins across the pond don't realise how massive the Amiga was over here.
But really, the writing was on the wall before AGA and the death of Commodore, I think.

I have a stack of ACE magazines next to me, from 1988 to 1992. The Amiga and ST slowly get relegated by SNES, Megadrive and PC. And yet, I feel if the A1200 had been a lot stronger, there was room for a middleground:
Megadrive was £200 with no games, games £40 a pop.
Snes was £300 games the same between £45 and £60!
And PC was about £1200 for a vga 386.
A decent £400 home computer could have held it's own ...perhaps.
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Old 10 November 2010, 01:03   #11
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I dont realy like the subject because its irelevant

But the ChipSet was what made the Amiga great at the start but keeping it would maybe not have been cost affective and moving to Graphics cards would have been better but loose all compatibility.

The OS was getting week not even a decent notepad as standard

The 68x series of processors had run its course - for compatibility you would need both the 68x and other processor to go forward.

Now how do you make an "Amiga" compatible with old software but as powerfull as a 3D0,PSX etc cost affective at the time?
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Old 10 November 2010, 06:12   #12
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The good and bad thing about the Amiga 1000 was the chip integration. At the start the system was better then anything out there at the price. The thing is every system evolves and the more tightly you integrate things the harder it is to change them with later designs and keep things working and compatible. Commodre pretty much sold the same system from the A1000 to the last A4000 with little change. There would have been no way to compete with 100's of individual companies making hardware for the PC anyway (same for advertising dollars).

I don't think the Amiga could have been a platform like the Mac just because few companies bothered doing hardware and software for the Amiga to keep it usefull. The difference between a platform that lives and dies isn't realy the hardware itself, but the software and hardware support it gets from the industry. And industry supports whatever is easy to work with (getting help from the maker is a big plus both in hardware and software specs) and sells in enough units to make any product profitable.

I lived through the DOS and Windows 3.1 days and to be honest they were not that bad. Once a system was setup they were pretty reliable. Most people tasked switched back then anyway so running multiple apps at the same time was not something you absolutely had to have (and if so desqview allowed that). Microsoft was pretty good at getting developers what they needed which is what got Windows 3.1 to take off (that and pirating).
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Old 10 November 2010, 11:43   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antonvaltaz View Post
Warning: this post contains pointless speculation.

I've been thinking a bit about the death of the Amiga lately. I've seen a lot of people ask a lot of "what ifs" - what if Commodore marketed the A1000 better, what if the AGA chipset had been released earlier, what if they'd focused on their core Amiga business earlier.

But I'm wondering if the Amiga's death wasn't inevitable - even *before* the launch of the A1000.

Commodore were criticised for not properly deciding whether the Amiga was to be marketed as a 'home' computer or a professional 'business' computer. However, I don't think they ever had any long-term prospects in either sector. By 1985, IBM compatibles were already dominant in the business world (even if they were not yet a virtual monopoly). IBM's decision to use commodity parts, along with the emergence of compatible clone PCs like Compaq's, meant that they would *inevitably* become more affordable - even to home users - making the very concept of 'home computers' entirely redundant.

So my argument is that, for all the undoubted management and marketing incompetence at Commodore, there is literally nothing they could have done to save the Amiga from commercial oblivion. It never stood a chance.

Thoughts?
Yes lots of things were against them, the A1000 was actually designed to be a console which didn't help and the A2000 wasn't much of an improvement (just a 1000 in a bigger case really). The only real decent attempt at updating the A1000 design was the A3000 but the writing was already on the wall for the planar chipset by then.

The only way the could have possibly survived to this day would have been to go after some niche markets like publishing, video editing and music. They really needed to get into bed with Apple and/or Atari, that would have helped (and was attempted).

They could of course have survived for a few more years if they'd wasted less money on silly projects like the CDTV and A600.

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Old 10 November 2010, 12:38   #14
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The 68x series of processors had run its course - for compatibility you would need both the 68x and other processor to go forward.

Now how do you make an "Amiga" compatible with old software but as powerfull as a 3D0,PSX etc cost affective at the time?
Just do the same as apple did (emulation layer), or Sony did with the PS2 (use the old CPU as an i/o controller, but it's there for emulation).

As for getting into bed with atari/apple. I've often thought, if they'd bought out Atari's computer business (Atari wanted out to concentrate on Jaguar)and added added an ST emulation to the A1200,and midi ports, they could have captured that segment of the market.
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Old 10 November 2010, 13:14   #15
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A complete, affordable Office Suite would've gone a long way on making Amiga viable for business and general users and having its unique strengths on top.
This is the one and only thing that was missing and would have made the outcome very different IMHO
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Old 11 November 2010, 20:27   #16
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Originally Posted by antonvaltaz View Post
Warning: this post contains pointless speculation.

I've been thinking a bit about the death of the Amiga lately. I've seen a lot of people ask a lot of "what ifs" - what if Commodore marketed the A1000 better, what if the AGA chipset had been released earlier, what if they'd focused on their core Amiga business earlier.

But I'm wondering if the Amiga's death wasn't inevitable - even *before* the launch of the A1000.

Commodore were criticised for not properly deciding whether the Amiga was to be marketed as a 'home' computer or a professional 'business' computer. However, I don't think they ever had any long-term prospects in either sector. By 1985, IBM compatibles were already dominant in the business world (even if they were not yet a virtual monopoly). IBM's decision to use commodity parts, along with the emergence of compatible clone PCs like Compaq's, meant that they would *inevitably* become more affordable - even to home users - making the very concept of 'home computers' entirely redundant.

So my argument is that, for all the undoubted management and marketing incompetence at Commodore, there is literally nothing they could have done to save the Amiga from commercial oblivion. It never stood a chance.

Thoughts?
I'm assuming you're talking about the American market? Because the American market is way different from the European market. And, of course, we have much more disposable income than you guys do.

Yes, Commodore was horribly incompetent when marketing the Amiga in the U.S., but what else could they do? Apple had already carved a niche for desktop/publishing purposes, and IBM had an extremely strong grip on users that just needed a computer for personal, business or high-end research uses. Where would the Amiga fit in in the U.S.?

Personal and Business use? Most PC's were basically just that, and you have to take in compatibility issues between PC's and Amiga's. Did the Amiga have an office suite that was fully compatible with IBM PC's?

Desktop, Animation and Studio use? Apple already took over that market, and if you needed much more powerful equipment designed for those purposes than Apple computers could handle, you would have to look at machines like SGI Workstations, CAD-designed computers, etc.

And what about video games? The 1980s were all about the NES, and maybe the Commodore 64 to a lesser extent. But by the 1990s, it was all about Nintendo, Sega and PC's equipped with VGA and Sound Blaster support. Again, this was in America.

As you said somewhere in this thread, the Amiga could do anything you wanted it to do, but it was not a master at any one specific thing. Yes, Americans can be very anal about what they want their computers to do. Really, in the end, we didn't have much choice when it came to looking for a computer. It was either IBM or Apple, and even if you've heard of an Amiga, you would have an extremely hard time finding good software that could run on your NTSC Amiga, because the programs were designed for PAL Amiga's.

What were us poor Yanks supposed to do?
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Old 11 November 2010, 20:54   #17
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Amiga could have lived if they basically switched to cheap X86 architecture in a A500 case and ported Amiga OS over to multitask DOS/Windows 3.1/OS2. No reason they could not have mad a mac version of the A500 as well.

Compatible, cheap, and adds something better. There was plenty of money to be made making cheaper clones in the 1990's, especially when you don't bother with advertising budgets.
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Old 11 November 2010, 21:55   #18
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Amiga could have lived if they basically switched to cheap X86 architecture in a A500 case and ported Amiga OS over to multitask DOS/Windows 3.1/OS2. No reason they could not have mad a mac version of the A500 as well.

Compatible, cheap, and adds something better. There was plenty of money to be made making cheaper clones in the 1990's, especially when you don't bother with advertising budgets.
But wouldn't that mean having to contract and pay another company to design and sell cheap Amiga clones? Could Commodore afford to do that when they were losing money at that point?

I may be completely wrong about this, but making cheap clones requires that most of the hardware components can be bought off-the-shelf. Apart from the CPU, most of the Amiga's hardware was custom-built. How can you design and sell a cheap clone if the original hardware was almost proprietary?

Then again, I'm probably just making up very stupid or baseless points.

EDIT: Well, you could outsource development of a cheap Amiga clone to China or wherever, but then you would have to put up with communication problems. Maybe the possible situation of Intellectual Property theft.

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Old 11 November 2010, 22:04   #19
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You do know Commodore designed, made, and sold X86 desktop clones anyway don't you? The only part not off the shelf for a PC was its BIOS and that was cloned ages before Commodore went bankrupt (Compaq and their 286 clones). My point is to make them small and integrated like the A500 systems while using a ported and expanded version of Amiga OS to make them better then just a PC while being cheaper as well.

Look at todays Mac, outside of the case design and OS its just an X86 PC, and will run Windows if you need it to. Now picture a DOS era machine in a nicer case running DOS apps in an Amiga OS window. Hell OS/2 could do it.
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Old 13 November 2010, 15:39   #20
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I'm assuming you're talking about the American market? Because the American market is way different from the European market. And, of course, we have much more disposable income than you guys do.

Desktop, Animation and Studio use? Apple already took over that market
1980s were all about the NES, and maybe the Commodore 64 to a lesser extent. But by the 1990s, it was all about Nintendo, Sega and PC's
fair enough from an American perspective. Disposable income has a lot to do with it. You have more still, and even more then!

To my knowledge, Apple did not have a dominant position in animation, 3D or otherwise. TV studios all over the world used Amiga's, and many 2D and 3D houses also. From babylon5, seaquest to jurassic park, there were Amigas involved. NeXT and XGi were the real heavyweights. Also, Amiga was very dominant over here for games production. I don't know of many euro megadrive/snes games that did not have the art work drawn on an Amiga.

Again, from a euro perspective, Nintendo sega and PC did not become dominant until 1993 or so. You can see their creeping influence in mags of the era. commodores woes, and the undernourished A1200 were responsible for that, it was not inevitable (although I expect we would still have seen a slower decline). The late '80's was all about the ST and Amiga. The early nineties belonged to the Amiga in euroland.
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