A-EON Interview about Amiga’s future


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A-EON InterviewHere I send some questions for Trevor Dickson, by Michal Bergseth. All of these questions have been answered by Trevor Dickson and I am very pleased that he took the time to answer all of my questions. So, here we go!

1) How did A-EON start up?

Short answer: A-EON Technology Ltd, is a UK company that was formed by Matthew Leaman and myself to develop new hardware and software for the AmigaOS and Amiga-inspired operating systems.

Long Answer:  In 2009 I helped found A-EON Technology cvba, a Belgian company, to develop modern hardware for the AmigaOS. Initially I had several business partners including Ben Hermans of Hyperion Entertainment but, due to unforeseen circumstances, I ended up managing the company and funding most of the development and manufacturing costs. The result of course was the AmigaOne X1000. When the project was successfully completed there was no need for a company based in Belgium and it was shut down.

Meanwhile, Matthew Leaman of AmigaKit, a successful international Amiga retailer servicing both the Classic and Next-Generation Amiga community, had proved invaluable it helping to bring the AmigaOne X1000 to market. In fact, without his assistance and distribution network the project would probably have struggled.. Having successfully completed the AmigaOne X1000 development, I decided I would like to continue helping to fund new hardware and software for the benefit of the whole Amiga community. It’s no secret that I try to promote and support all Amiga-inspired flavours. As a result, I helped Matthew Leaman found a new company, A-EON Technology Ltd in the UK.

2) Who is running A-EON today and who do you have co-operation with? How is your co-operation with ACube for example about AmigaOS 4.x?

Answer: Matthew Leaman is the Managing Director of A-EON Technology Ltd and looks after all the day-to-day business. As you may have seen from our recent news release, the cooperation with ACube is excellent and we are working on both Classic and Next-Generation Amiga products. We have agreed a number of software and hardware initiatives following our recent summit meeting in Cardiff. In particular, we agreed a new hardware and software development roadmap which both companies will jointly fund and support. Watch this space. 😉

3) Where does A-EON get its funds? Is the AmigaONE X1000 sales enough?

Answer: A-EON Technology is an independent private company 100% funded by its directors and shareholders and has no debts or external financing. I think I have said on a number of occasions that the sales of AmigaOne X1000 would not have been enough to fund the company. That is why we have embarked on numerous hardware and software projects to widen our market and sales potential. This includes a number of projects for the Classic Amiga market, in addition to our Next-Generation efforts. But, as I said last year at Amiwest, we need more software content for our platform and we have been concentrating our efforts to encourage more software development. The AMIstore project has proved incredibly successful and very popular with developers and Amiga users alike. We have also signed numerous agreements with developers and have been purchasing and developing a lot of quality software.

4) How is A-EON related to Amiga and Commodore? Which Amiga licenses do you have?

Answer: Other than the fact that we develop hardware and software for the AmigaOS and Next-Generation Amiga-inspired systems, A-EON Technology has no relationship with the original Commodore company. However, we have acquired a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual licence to use the Amiga One (and AmigaOne), AmigaOS and “Boing Ball” names and associated trademarks from Hyperion Entertainment. I also have a close business relationship with Michael Battilana of Cloanto srl and helped him fund later versions of “Amiga Forever”. Incidentally I also “blame” Michael for getting me involved in the Next-Generation Amiga business. 😉

5) How many AmigaONE X1000 motherboards have you sold? Are you satisfied with the sales?

Answer: As I replied in another interview recently, we have sold in excess of 200 AmigaOne X1000 systems and boards but less than 2000. As for satisfaction, yes we were very pleased with AmigaONE X1000 sales but, due to the high cost and shortage of P.A. Semi CPUs, we took the decision to discontinue manufacturing the Nemo motherboard.

6) How about Amiga’s future? Do you believe in it and what can you reveal to Distrita about your plans that can give us some exclusive news?

Answer: We have a hardware and software roadmap for the continued development and support of AmigaOS and AmigaOS-inspired systems. Apart from the AmigaOne X5000 project we have several other hardware development projects in the works for both the Classic and Next-Generation markets. While I would like to give you some exclusive news, we are reserving that for one or more of the upcoming Amiga30th Anniversary shows. Incidentally, I have sponsored the events in Amsterdam, Neuss and the Computer History Museum in California and I plan to attend all three shows. Also I have just sponsored and have signed up to attend the Peterborough show in the UK.

However, as I have stated on a number of occasions, we need more quality software content. You will note from recent news releases that we have been acquiring many iconic AmigaOS software titles and developing more software content. I can now reveal that we are about to release MultiViewer, an advanced file viewer utility for the Classic and Next-Generation AmigaOS systems. MultiViewer is a flexible application for viewing any type of file supported by the datatypes system. It was built from the ground up and is essentially a drop-in replacement for the AmigaOS program MultiView but with many more features, such as a tool bar, image scaling, slideshow feature, image and file editing hotlinks, etc. Two versions are being released. MultiViewer for the Classic AmigaOS and MultiViewerNG for the latest AmigaOS 4.1 systems. MultiViewer may be run from the Workbench or from the shell. Its behaviour is controlled by a range of options which may be defined as Tooltypes or command line switches. Default settings are loaded from the tooltypes in the main programs icon and then may be modified by the tooltypes in the projects icon or the switches and options provided on the command line. Additional tooltypes allow the defining of external editors and scripts which may be executed from a custom script menu. Once MultiViewer is running, additional features may be controlled via the tool bar, menu and keyboard shortcuts and tabs for multiple files (NG version only). You heard it here first! 😉

7) Now let’s talk about the new AmigaONE X5000. Tell us everything that you can to us please. The world eager to know what this new PowerPC motherboard can do? Will it give PowerPC the extra push? Where do you want to go with this new product? Who do you aim it at?

What can I say about the AmigaOne X5000? This is very much Matthew’s baby. While I drove the initial X1000 development, Matthew has taken charge of the X5000 project. The AmigaOS beta test programme continues to progress, although as usual not as fast as I would have liked. Our Core Linux support team have made great strides and the X5000 already has a working Linux distribution. This is very good for testing all the on-board components. There were some hold ups with the AmigaOS 4.1 port which have now been resolved. We are about to push the button of the first manufacturing run for the production board. We will probably take the same approach that I did with the X1000 by selling an initial “First Contact” system, although we will probably change the name to something like “Close Encounter”. 😉

The Cyrus+ motherboard has a number of advantages over the Nemo board in the X1000. Although the CPU lacks Alivec support, we have already confirmed that P5020 64-bit, dual-core P5020 running at 2GHz outperforms the PA6T in a number of important areas. It supports faster DD3 RAM, up to 1333 MT, with a theoretical capacity of 64GB. It also includes improved Xena/Xorro support and unlike the X1000, which uses CFE firmware, the X5000 is using a modified and updated version of Uboot. Most of the firmware work to date has been completed by Ultra Varisys to our specifications. Once the system is commercially available, Max “mx3” Tretene of ACube will work on future firmware improvements and updates. Another sign of our close cooperation with that company.

Recent benchmark tests with Warp3D using an XFX RadeonHD 7770 Southern Island graphics card under AmigaOS4.1 have shown the raw power of the P5020 CPU. The infamous Cow3D demo is almost 100% faster on the X5000 compared to any other AmigaOS4 PowerPC hardware and that is with the X5000 running a debug version of the AmigaOS 4.1 kernel which is not optimised for speedy performance. Who is the X5000 aimed at? Primarily Amiga enthusiasts who want a modern turbocharged AmigaOS experience. However, we are also investigating the PowerPC Linux market and have already identified a potential route to market.

8) Who is AmigaONE X5000 for? What price range will it be at? Can it compete with PC’s and Mac’s? What will you do to make x-Amigans, PC users and MAC users choose AmigaONE X5000?

Answer: All very good questions. The price, while still aimed at the Amiga power user, will probably be less expensive that the AmigaOne X1000. Our hardware is never going to be able to compete on price with mass-produced mainstream systems from the PC or Mac world. Although we develop primarily for the Amiga enthusiast market, we have identified some opportunities in other areas where our boards are quite cost-effective compared to other commercial solutions. However, at the moment people choose to buy Next-Generation Amiga because they want to run the latest version of AmigaOS on modern hardware designed for that purpose. Also by giving our customers the option to try out other Next-Generation operating systems, we will offer even more flexibility and choice. While Apple still produce stylish products, they have long since joined the ranks of the mass produced x86 crowd. I am pleased to say that we still “dare to be different” and so do all of our customers. Long may it continue!

9) We know that AmigaONE X5000 will support AmigaOS 4.x! But we also know that MorphOS is getting ported to it. Do you have any plans to make a good link between these two? Will it be easy to install both operating systems on AmigaONE X5000?

Answer: It’s no secret that, although our hardware is primarily developed for AmigaOS 4, we are keen to encourage porting of other operating systems. Over a dozen PowerPC Linux distributions have been tested on the AmigaOne X1000 and the Live Ubuntu Remix DVD has proved very popular with X1000 users. We have a Core Linux support team who maintain the Linux kernels for all our hardware and ensure that our boards support most if not all of the PowerPC Linux distributions. The X5000 already has working Debian and SliTaz Linux PowerPC ports and we expect it will support many other PowerPC Linux distributions in the future. Likewise, I have always wanted to see MorphOS and AROS running on our hardware and it’s good to see this finally coming to fruition. With regards to booting multiple operating systems, the AmigaOne X1000 has an easily editable early boot menu which allows the user to select which Operating System to install. On my own X1000 I can choose from two AmigaOS4.1 installations (beta and Final edition) or seven PowerPC Linux distributions. Similarly the X5000, although it is based on a modified Uboot firmware, can also support multiple operating system which can be selected from its Amiga-like early boot menu. So I don’t expect too many problems booting multiple operating systems on the X5000.

10) Any other news from A-EON? Something that you can reveal to a site a bit outside of the Amiga community. We do have articles about anything from todays technology to retro machines. Is there something that you want to reveal to our readers about your Amiga plans and also your own plans. Where do you want to be in 5 years time?

Answer: Where do I want to be in 5 years time?  Still alive!

Seriously though, as a Business Angel in New Zealand I get to see a lot of smart, cool young companies and start-ups. The vast majority are technology based and cover a diverse range of fields and applications. I’ve looked at companies developing non-contact battery charging technology, portable single blade wind turbines, advanced 3D compression algorithms and codecs and even “intelligent” fabrics and bandages. Many of the companies have a disruptive business model and are working on products or services to replace existing technologies and gain a competitive advantage. Some, like Flick Electric are trying to disrupt the New Zealand electricity retail industry by allowing consumers access to the wholesale price of electricity, direct from the spot market, by utilising web based apps and smart meter technology while others like Gamelab, with its Gamedash2D initiative are trying to revolutionise and simplify game development by proving it can create a new game every 2 days.

Flick Electric: https://www.flickelectric.co.nz

Gamelab/Gamdash2D: http://www.gamedash2d.com/

I have a direct involvement in almost 40 start-ups plus a number of other more established businesses. One of the coolest is 8i, (http://www.8i.com/) which I think will revolutionise 3D reality. So, what are my Amiga aspirations? I have to be honest and confess that, despite all my other business interests, I still get the biggest satisfaction and thrill from my Amiga “obsession”. So where do I want the Amiga business to be in 5 years time? Still alive and thriving of course! I think it is important that we encourage all Amiga-inspired developers to create quality software for all of our platforms, whether it be Classic AmigaOS, emulation or Next-Generation Amiga-inspired hardware. There are far too few developers to continue with the petty squabbles of the past. It’s time to work together for the benefit of the whole community. I want A-EON Technology to follow in the footsteps of developers like Andreas Falkenhahn, the developer of Hollywood, who created the cross platform multimedia application layer which caters for all Amiga-inspired flavours as well as Linux, MacOS, Android and Windows.

11) The biggest issue that we as Amigan’s have when we talk to PC and Mac users is that they really don’t understand what Amiga is. Most thinks that Amiga is still Amiga 500. Some remembers games like Superfrog, Shadow of the Beast, Another World etc… But the real challenge for us who uses nextgen Amiga daily, is how to give the right information about AmigaONE X5000, AmigaOS 4.x, MorphOS, Acube etc. What is your plans regarding this task? Do you plan on having some information campaigns about Amiga today?

Answer: It’s quite amazing that, despite its original ground breaking features, the Amiga is still seen as a games machine and I suppose that is a reflection on Commodore and the original success of the C64. From my own experience, I used a succession of big box Amigas (A2000, A3000 & A4000) for video, graphics, DTP and publicity work and I never really played games on my Amigas (well, hardly ever ;-)).I will continue to help develop and fund new hardware as long as there is a demand for our products. However, with so much new hardware in development and production, I believe software content is the key to future success for AmigaOS and Amiga-inspired systems. That is the main reason that A-EON has been acquiring the software rights for many Classic Amiga programs and signing up new developers.

12) Any last words? We at Distrita wishes A-EON all the best in the future. It is good to see that PowerPC is still alive thru both Nintendo (Wii U) and you. Do you think that A-EON can save PowerPC platform? x86 dominance in the world is humongous, but Distrita really respects companies like you who wants to try to give competition. Anyway. Distrita wants to help you out also. So use our site for promoting Amiga things.

Answer: There are major multinational corporations with vast financial resources who are pouring money into hardware development. It would be foolish to think that A-EON could save the PowerPC platform by itself and nor should it try to do so. However, we have not given up on PowerPC hardware and are already working on a number of concepts for our future designs. We will also do all we can to leverage off the technology that is being developed and build products and software that our customers want to buy and own. We have established our roadmap for future hardware and software development, some of which will be revealed at the upcoming Amiga30th Anniversary shows. We are forming closer ties with developers from all parts of the Amiga community and will continue to acquire and develop more software content. We will continue to use AMIstore to provide developers with a shop front to sell their work as well as promote and distribute our own products. But most of all we will try to live up to the original Amiga inspiration and have some fun while we are doing it.

Trevor Dickinson

June 1st 2015

All A-EON news can be found on their website, www.a-eon.com But you can also follow Amiga news on AmigaWorld, www.amigaworld.net and on Amiga org website, www.amiga.org which A-EON also owns.

Trevor Dickson also got his own blog, where he gives the latest Amiga news and more, blog.a-eon.biz/blog

 

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