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AmigaAnywhere Returns

AmigaAnywhere had been a flagship product of Amiga Inc which offered developers the chance to develop content which would instantly run on a variety of devices. The “write once, run anywhere capabilities” of AA were attractive but their expectations were dashed when deals with hardware manufacturers like Sharp fell through and they failed to attract the interest of developers outside of the Amiga community. The final blow to AA was thought to have occurred when the Tao Group went into administration as this product was largely based on Tao's Elate OS. However, the epitaph may have been written prematurely.

At the Digital Experience, a private event for the press and industry analysts attending the CES in Las Vegas, Bill McEwen in a surprise move, announced the availability of AmigaAnywhere 2. Although no news of this announcement was posted through official sources (i.e. their website or via e-mail), the press release to the media revealed that version 2 still has write once, run anywhere capabilities, and even boasts new features such as “a device-independent, single, ubiquitous Virtual Environment (VEN) that functions across different operating systems and the Internet”. Questions were immediately raised as to whether AA2 used Tao code but according to Gabriel Hauber, one of the early adopters of AA, “there is nothing Tao related left”. It would appear that Amiga Inc have either developed their own development platform from scratch or have found a new partner to replace Tao.

The Amiga community have not warmly received the return of AmigaAnywhere as many users have traditionally felt that AA had been an unwanted distraction which has hindered the development of the AmigaOS. As one German user in the Amiga World forum pointed out “we're not the target for this product. Most people here want AmigaOS 4 and its future descendants”. There are also concerns that Amiga Inc would like to rebrand AA as AmigaOS 5 in order to broaden its appeal. These fears resurfaced as a result of Bill McEwen's comments to a reporter when he is said to have implied that AA2 is AmigaOS 5, and their recent press release does state that AA2 is “the first phase of the AmigaOS”. Some clarification has been provided by Bill Borsari, who managed to contact Bill McEwen about the matter, in which it was revealed “that he was asked about OS 5 and stated that AA2 is part of the next generation OS they are working on. He did not tell the reporter that OS 5 is or was AA2”. However, questions still remain as to what role AA2 is to play in the evolution of AmigaOS 5.

The technical merits of AA2 have received a largely negative response from Amiga developers who seem unconvinced. Samuel Crow made it clear that “there are other VMs for handhelds, other APIs for cross-platform portability, and, most importantly, some of those portable APIs work on VMs for handhelds. If you want portable code, forget AmigaAnywhere 2 and use SDL, OpenGL, and LLVM”. He also pointed out that “the lightweight optimizer was one of the things that caused AA to fail the first time and I suspect that that aspect of AA hasn't been fixed the second time around”. However, Gabriel Hauber who is one of few developers to have used AA2, pointed out “I have found definite advantages, and also frustrations (as with any platform, I guess). It will be interesting though to see where it goes from here”.

The revelation that AmigaAnywhere is set to return has not generated much positive interest but this kind of reaction must have been expected as Amiga Inc has kept users and developers in the dark about their product plans. Too little is known about AA2 (and AmigaOS 5) to judge the merits of reviving this innovative product.

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