The Amiga is dead; still kicking! (microcomputer; market position) (Taking Sides)
by Rhett Anderson, Randy Thompson
That's what Washington Post readers found out when they read Phillip Robinson's July 20, 1992, article titled "Commodore Lets the Amiga Die a Slow Death." I'm surprised the paper resorted to printing such old news. Maybe next week's headline will be "Lincoln Assassinated!" The rumors of the Amiga's death have been greatly understated.
The Amiga actually died a few years back, although it's true that the Video Toaster brought it out of its grave to live a stumbling sort of zombie life that only MIDI-crazy Atari ST owners can appreciate. Don't get me wrong--our individual Amigas are still alive; I use mine as much as I ever did. It's the Amiga as a market force that has died.
Robinson's arguments and explanations are the usual ones. Commodore took too long to get its system software out the door. It's true that the OS is quite robust now, but it was notoriously flaky at first. In retrospect, it probably would've been better if Commodore had waited until the OS calmed down before it shipped the machine, but hindsight is a tricky thing. Commodore was operating in the red at that time. It needed to ship the machine.
The company was also guilty of promising more than it could deliver. Remember the Sidecar, which was supposed to make the Amiga 1000 compatible with the PC? It arrived late, to say the least, although its technology eventually showed up in the popular Bridgeboard.
The Amiga came to life as an invention of a small, entrepreneurial company. The flurry of innovation which made the machine so exciting when it was released has never been matched. Commodore isn't that kind of company. The Amiga used to be a high-tech bargain, but now it's old technology.
The real question here is whether the Amiga is really dead or just playing possum. A couple of years ago, I thought the latter. I thought that a new set of custom chips was just around the corner. No such luck. Commodore could still bring out a new Amiga to match our dreams of the last few years. But that would be like marketing a whole new computer, because, in the U.S. at least, the Amiga has disappeared from the public's collective mind.
Taking a look over at Mr. Thompson's side, we see a few good points. Yes, the Amiga does well in Europe (although it's sliding even there). Yes, there are niche markets to fight for. And yes, the Amiga is still being manufactured. But even Mr. Thompson must realize that Commodore's nearly infinite neglect has dealt the Amiga a fatal blow. And the blood isn't even fresh.
Death is inevitable. But is the Amiga dead? Contrary to Phillip Robinson's recent newspaper article, the computer's heart continues to beat.
I've been hearing reports of the demise of Commodore's Amiga for years, yet the fact remains that the Amiga is still with us. You are living proof of that, as are the many new product advertisements you encounter in magazines such as Amiga Resource and AmigaWorld. So why do magazines and newspapers perennially publish Amiga obituaries?
There are several reasons why such articles continue to flourish, the main being that stories about failure sell. Remember Reebok's hyped-up Olympic rivals Dan and Dave? Did you ever see an article regarding their upcoming competition? No. But once Dan failed to make it to Barcelona, there wasn't a newspaper in the country that didn't detail his misfortune. (At least the headlines didn't proclaim Dan dead.)
The computer industry has changed; it's a niche market now. There's no doubt that MS-DOS computers have won the popularity contest, but they've lost the desktop publishing and video competitions to the Macintosh and Amiga. Today's consumer buys a computer to perform a specific task, and the Amiga is still the computer of choice for video professionals and arcade fans.
Another item that Amiga doomsayers neglect to take into account is the international market. Taking a more global view of the computer industry, we find the Amiga more than just alive. In the U.K., it's the PC clones that are playing catch-up with Commodore in the sales race. Apple Macintoshes are, for the most part, no-shows. Now tell me the Amiga is dead.
The key thing to remember from all of this is that despite the opinion of many industry pundits, your deceased computer continues to work. In fact, while many of you may consider the Commodore 64 a dead computer, Commodore still sells tons of them, and there are millions of 64 owners out there who power up their computers every day. It's all a matter of perspective.
Yes, the Amiga--like the VIC-20 and PCjr--will eventually be discontinued by its manufacturer. Let's not bury it until that happens. Because the last time I checked, my Amiga's heart was still beating (at a rate of only 7.14 MHz, but beating nonetheless). I suspect your Amiga's is, too.
Looking over at Mr. Anderson's side, I wonder why I bother to argue with such a staunch pessimist. He talks about technology that stands still. Let's talk about PC clones, computers that didn't enter the world of 32-bit operating systems until the 386 was introduced. For a dead computer, the Amiga looks pretty good.