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Gateway shelves plans for new Amiga PC

The computer's would-be savior won't be making a new Amiga anytime soon. It will instead focus on opportunities in the emerging information appliance market.

In another twist in the long saga of the Amiga computer, Gateway--the company's would-be savior--apparently won't be making a new Amiga machine anytime soon.

Instead, the PC maker will focus on opportunities in the emerging information appliance market, according to sources, and its Amiga subsidiary is redefining itself as a software company. That was unwelcome news to long-suffering fans of the Amiga computer, which has become something of a cult-like icon with a following to match.

In a somewhat cryptic message posted on Amiga's site this week, president and chief executive Tom Schmidt said: "I hope you'd agree that Amiga was never about a box. It was never about an operating system either. Sure those things were part of what made the original Amiga great, but at its heart, Amiga was simply about a better way."

The message was posted in response to reports on the Web and in newsgroups that the Multimedia Convergence Computer--or MCC, as the new Amiga was being called--had been canceled. Gateway declined to comment, and Schmidt was not available to elaborate on his letter.

The economics of making a computer for a smallish number of rabidly loyal Amiga followers apparently aren't appealing to Gateway, even though plans to do so had been announced in July. That was before the sudden departure of former president Jim Collas raised questions among Amiga's fans about the company's direction.

In his letter, Schmidt emphasized that Amiga's plans to provide software for information appliances to other manufacturers were not a shift in strategy. "We have decided to work with business partners who will deliver our software technology on their systems, rather than enter the hardware business directly," the message stated.

The letter did little to quell the anger and confusion among Amiga loyalists, who have stuck with the remnants of the company through several ownership changes and even bankruptcy.

"Whenever there was a change at helm or a change in direction, we feared [sic] 'Will there be an Amiga computer we can buy, to sit on our desks at home or in the office?'" asked an Amiga devotee on one Web site.

"There are evolving markets out there waiting to be explored," he said. "However, for us, the existing, living, starving community scattered all around the world, for the distributors, developers, vendors, users, for us, it is the desktop we most anxiously wait for."

But tiny Amiga is focusing on building software for the information appliance business, according to those familiar with the company's plans. That hasn't changed since CNET first outlined Amiga's strategy in July.

Software for inexpensive TV set-top boxes and Internet appliances, including projects based around the Linux operating system, will soon start to emerge from Amiga, past-president Collas previously said. Schmidt's strategy is just as bold: He wants Amiga software "running on every type of device imaginable, on top of every other operating system out there."

Still, hope springs eternal for the Amiga faithful. "This doesn't mean that there won't be some sort of Amiga somewhere, somehow," one said.

A German company called Phase 5, which sells products such as processor upgrade cards for Macintosh and Amiga computers, is working on a desktop PC that should hit the market early next year.

Phase 5 said it is working with Ontario-based QNX to support software that runs on older versions of the Amiga operating system. QNX had been working with Amiga to develop a next-generation version of the operating system until Amiga decided to go with Linux as its core technology.

Also, an Amiga fan club comprised of hardware and software engineers have organized the Phoenix Platform Consortium. The group is evidently planning on creating reference designs for its own computer similar to the Amiga.