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Plans for new Amiga emerge

Once one of the hottest PC companies, Amiga spells out how it intends to reinvent itself with a new operating system strategy.

Amiga, once one of the hottest PC companies in the world, spelled out how it intends to reinvent itself with a new operating system strategy, but may have ended up raising yet more questions.

At an event called the World of Amiga conference that's focusing on the theme of "digital convergence," the Gateway subsidiary spelled out its plans for next-generation operating system (OS) software.

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General manager Jeff Schindler took the stage at the London show to trumpet the comeback of the beleaguered computer company, but offered scant details to clarify previous statements the company has made about its future.

In essence, Schindler told the crowd of users and distributors that Amiga is in the process of transforming itself into a software company, and phasing out its hardware systems. The company is developing an OS that it may eventually license for use in Intel-compatible PCs and Windows CE-based set-top boxes, he said.

Many industry watchers have speculated that the decision to hire Schindler, a former Gateway executive who worked on the PC maker's Destination TV-PC line, indicated that Amiga's future lay in a consumer electronics-computer "convergence" product.

The company declined to comment on specific companies or products that would be interested in partnering with Amiga.

An Amiga representative had earlier in the day sent out a release indicating the company was eyeing a sub-$1,000 PC, but later representatives said that this was untrue. Indeed, Amiga's public statements about its future haven't helped to remove lingering doubts about the platform's viability.

Amiga OS 4.0 will be released this November, a hybrid of the former Amiga OS. Amiga 5.0 is expected in early 1999. Schindler speculated that the upcoming Amiga platform may incorporate code from the Linux OS, BeOS, or Java platforms.

The Amiga 1000 was introduced in 1985 in the United States. Over the next few years, it became one of the hottest-selling PCs because it boasted features that were cutting-edge for its time, including advanced multimedia and an OS which had features that Microsoft implemented years later.

The Amiga was preceded by the Commodore 64 computer, which was demonstrated at an electronics show in 1983 with features such as a 6510 processor, 64K of memory, custom sound, and color graphics. The system eventually cost as little as $200, reaching an estimated sales of 17 to 22 million units.