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AmigaOS 5 surfaces... sort of

Amiga launches AmigaAnywhere 2

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CES AmigaOS 5 made a covert appearance at an event outside the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), turning up in the guise of a version of Space Invaders running on a Windows Mobile 6-based smartphone.

Amiga – the company – was ostensibly showing AmigaAnywhere 2, the new version of its virtual machine technology. But taking Amiga President Bill McEwen aside for a moment, we discovered that AmigaAnywhere 2 is AmigaOS 5.

“We had to call it that because of the Microsoft deal,” McEwen whispered. Amiga's had close-ish ties with Redmond since 2002 at least when it began pitching the original AmigaAnywhere for Windows CE.

Microsoft is publishing Invasion for WM6 but apparently it doesn't like the idea of telling the world that one of its operating systems is being – albeit temporarily - elbowed aside by another OS, but, according to McEwen, that's what's happening when Invaders runs. Fire up the app and Windows Mobile disappears, up pops the AmigaAnywhere logo and then the game loads.

Incidentally, Amiga itself has been for years been offering a version of Invasion for Pocket PC, which begs the question: is there really anything different with AmigaAnywhere 2?

For Amiga's part, AmigaAnywhere 2 is pitched as a “device-independent, single, ubiquitous Virtual Environment that functions across different operating systems and the internet”. Of course, it's been pursuing this approach for most of the past seven years, and it's hard to see what AmigaAnywhere does that Java doesn't. Or Flash – perhaps a better comparison given the Amiga focus on rich media.

The point for AmigaOS buffs is that AmigaAnywhere 2 effectively starts up a virtual machine, boots AmigaOS and runs the code on top of that. And that makes it perfectly possible for Amiga lovers to fire it up and run the familiar Amiga GUI instead of the game. Why they'd want to is anyone's guess, and Amiga wasn't demo'ing the OS working in this mode. Can AmigaOS catch up with the user experience and the functionality of modern operating systems? Some might argue that it shouldn't try, that it should instead revel in its simplicity and very small storage requirement.

AmigaAnywhere 2 currently runs under Windows proper, Windows Mobile, Linux for PCs and Linux for embedded systems. A Mac OS X version is on its way, McEwen said, but the company wants to get the Symbian version finished first.

McEwen wouldn't talk about timescales, and since the real deal here is to get the technology into phones, media players, sat navs and other gadgets, that's probably wise. Amiga's future, if it has one, lies within these kind of products, not personal computers. Perhaps AmigaAnywhere 2 is the product get it there. McEwen seems to think so, which is one reason he's here at CES: to persuade device makers to sign up.

Why should they do so now? If AmigaAnywhere 2 is using AmigaOS 5, it's presumably free of any further fall-out from the ongoing legal battle over the ownership of AmigaOS 4 and its predecessors. That may persuade them AmigaAnywhere 2 is 'safe' for them to implement.

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