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Amiga users demand open source AmigaOS

It may not make much sense for Amiga, inc., but the plan has merit

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Analysis Amiga users have begun a campaign to persuade Amiga, inc. president Thomas Schmidt that the success of both company and community depends on taking a leaf from Linux's book and releasing the AmigaOS under an open source licence. Initially, the plan is to focus on the open source release of the current, 'classic' AmigaOS, but according to Steve Crietzman, president of the Campaign to Open Source AmigaOS (COSA), if Schmidt is willing, it could also take in Amiga's upcoming Amiga Operating Environment. While the proposal sounds at first like just another attempt to hop on the open source bandwagon, the COSA's plan, which has won the backing of open source guru Eric Raymond, does make some sense. At the very least, since Amiga, inc.'s software-only strategy effectively leaves the current AmigaOS behind, going open source would allow the platform's proponents to continue the development that the company has now to all intents and purposes abandoned. If the Linux pattern is followed, the move could also see AmigaOS being taken to other hardware platforms, though it's not hard to foresee a minority of more reactionary Amiga supporters feeling this might be a sign of the dilution of the OS' purity. However, since the life of any IT product is only worth preserving if there are people out there who want to use it, winning new users is essential to AmigaOS' survival. The benefit for Amiga, inc. is, however, a little less convincing. COSA's pitch here centres on the way the open source movement can revitalise a product and help get it into new markets. And, indeed, it has, as Linux's expansion out of the server and desktop arenas into broader, embedded markets has shown. The snag, though, is that since Amiga, inc. isn't pursuing an AmigaOS-based strategy, widening that OS' market penetration actually doesn't help the company much beyond raising awareness of the name. The last thing Amiga, inc. wants is for developers to be turned on to AmigaOS through its openness only to find that the company is actually working with something completely different. Of course, the sub-text here may be that Amiga should bring AmigaOS back into the fold, issue it under an open source licence and then seek to make revenue selling ancillary services, such as packaged versions of the OS and services. COSA's focus on Red Hat would certainly suggest that. What this argument fails to take into account is the fact the Linux has always been offered on the single most widely-available computing platform, and Linux had already achieved a wide level of support, something that Red Hat was able to leverage. COSA's plan also makes the assumption that what worked once, for Linux, can work again, for AmigaOS, and that is open to challenge. Linux has some real benefits for a wider userbase than its techie early adopters, and the open source process has enabled those benefits to be easily evaluated and adopted. AmigaOS also has some distinct advantages, but whether they amount to something unique to win the support a wider range of users is open to question. Still, if Schmidt proves unconvinced by the business arguments, he should at least give COSA's proposals serious consideration since it will ensure AmigaOS has a longer lifespan than it might otherwise have and, in any case, making AmigaOS open source is really no skin off Amiga, inc's nose now. So why say no? In his last open letter to the Amiga community, Schmidt mentioned his willingness to talk to anyone interested in extending the classic AmigaOS. It's not clear whether that means he's keen solely in companies interested in licensing the OS commercially, or in any attempt to do something new and interesting with the technology. COSA's proposals, already submitted to Schmidt, certainly rate highly in the latter category. ® Details of the Campaign to Open Source AmigaOS's proposals can be found at the organisation's Web site

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