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Amiga unveils next-gen hardware spec

But manufacturers support seems very thin on the ground

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Amiga re-introduced the computer that bears its name after years of focusing solely on software. It also announced the platform's first licensee.

Amiga boss Bill McEwen announced plans to provide new Amiga hardware not long after he bought the company off previous owner Gateway, and this weekend the company released the basics of the AmigaOne's spec.

Of course, AmigaOne isn't a shift back toward the heady days of the mid to late 80s, when Amiga, then part of Commodore, was a hardware company. The system is primarily designed to provide both a launching platform and showcase for Amiga's networked home-oriented OS, the Amiga Digital Environment.

It's secondary role is as a sop to Amiga die-hards whose credo is 'once a hardware company, always a hardware company'. From a product strategy perspective, McEwen's Amiga is little different from previous versions of the company - the focus remains on the software; even the release says "Amiga is a software company, not a hardware manufacturer" - but with AmigaOne, he is at least paying more than lip-service to the glory days.

The AmigaOne's spec. nods toward Apple's iMac. The spec. calls for USB, FireWire and Ethernet ports, built-in 56kbps modem, DVD drive, quality audio card (in this case a Creative Labs-based one) and accelerated 3D graphics (Matrox), and no floppy drive. Amiga pads this out with 64MB or more of RAM, 10GB or more storage capacity and PCI slots for expansion.

What separates AmigaOne from other platforms is its processor-independence, a feature of the Amiga DE, but still surprising to see in a reference platform spec. Amiga lists PowerPC, x86 ARM, MIPS and Hitachi's SH4 as possible host chips.

The first producer of AmigaOne-based hardware will be UK-based Eyetech, an old Amiga hand by all accounts. Still, that's not the same as having a well-known - outside the Amiga community, at any rate - hardware company's backing.

"After talks with the hardware development staff of several companies I am convinced that working with Eyetech will allow us to offer an elegant solution that gives both an excellent level of backward compatibility and a powerful basis for the new Amiga Digital Environment," said Amiga CTO Fleecy Moss in the AmigaOne release. We're sure he's right, but his comments suggest that those 'several companies' couldn't or wouldn't come to an agreement with Amiga, which isn't exactly encouraging.

Eyetech will produce a couple of AmigaOne-based motherboards which will work with Amiga users' existing kit, so we're really talking upgrades here, rather than completely new machines.

Still, Amiga notes that it is talking to other potential partners about the development of standalone systems, so we could soon genuinely see the first new Amiga in years. That said, those named are, again, Amiga stalwarts, and there's no sign yet of broader PC or appliance market support. ®

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