Interview by Luca "OgniX" Ognibene
10 June 1998
Michele: I think that we over the past seven years or so we have heard so many words, that we better wait for facts before we add more words.
Luca: As you noted for sure, the Amiga community reacted in two ways: the former negative, because the next Amiga OS version will run on X86 only (even if for a limited period, as Fleecy Moos stated), the latter positive because the revolutionary aspect has been caught, a drastic cut to the past, counting on software emulation for backward compatibility. What do you think about these two points of view?
Michele: I am not aware of an X86 version of the Amiga OS, but rather it is expected that there will be a new OS for a CPU which has not been identified yet (other than it will not be X86), and of course 68K Amiga emulation for different CPUs, which already exists.
Luca: I think you even realized Amiga Inc. plan is somewhat in contrast with Phase 5 plans for the Amiga, in a particular way if you remember that news got out of Petro's mouth some months ago, which told that the future choice for the Amiga main processor would be the pair 680X0-PowerPC.
As I personally noted, at least in the Italian amigan public, those ones which expressed a negative opinion about Amiga Inc. annouce, have many hopes about the Pre/Box and the hypothetical A/Box. What about you?
Michele: I am not sure if it was Petro, or Joe Torre, who spread this news. Anyway, in spite of the fact that I have been a strong PowerPC enthusiast for many years, I would tend to agree that the PowerPC has lost its chance to become a serious alternative for desktop systems. The promises of many of the PowerPC allies have not been maintained, and most OS partners (Sun, IBM, Microsoft, Taligent) have abandoned their PowerPC projects. If we need emulation to run existing Amiga software on a new system, then there are less expensive solutions, such as standard PCs, which also serve as two systems, and usually cost less than a PowerPC solution.
Luca: What do you think about the present situation at Amiga Inc.? It seems to me there aren't enough people to realize what they said (maybe also someone without the right knowledge, but I don't know...).
Michele: As far as I can see, they are very open to partnering with external parties, so this might not be an issue. But they certainly know more about their projects, goals and resources than we do, so I think there is little I can add to what they are saying.
Luca: Have you been in Hammersmith (is it written this way? :), at World of Amiga? If yes, what about the atmosphere? And the English Amiga users?
Michele: Well, I guess eveybody could see the reactions online. That more or less accurately reflected what people where saying at the show.
Luca: As I could understand, Amiga Inc. guys have the intention to port, or to let port, the Amiga OS on other hardware platforms (see various microprocessors), and so on Intel too.
If this thing become reality, in your opinion could be possible that the ported Amiga OS will be so efficent to run smoothly and fast on a 486 too, so to exploit a big amount of now obsolete machines?
Michele: You would still need to add the Amiga custom chips, which require a fast Pentium class CPU if they are to be emulated, or special additional hardware. So perhaps Linux would be a better OS for those old systems.
OgniX's note: probably to get Amiga OS efficient and fast on a 486 system, we need to write drivers that perform the graphics.library fuctions for each PC video board on the market (the same for the audio functions): it would be improbable.
Luca: As you know the previously announced 3.5 OS release will never get out, and won't be any OS upgrades for the "classic" Amigas.
How do you consider the idea of realizing an upgrade for those machines by Phase 5 or by any other external entity? With external entity I mean a group of people that took an Amiga OS licence, for example (I even read, on an IRC transcript, of a controlled Amiga OS sources distribution via ICOA); I remember you the Enrico Altavilla's proposal.
This project could be developed for releasing the Amiga OS in PowerPC native code as soon as possible, so to obtain the maximum performace from the PowerUp boards, and for the Phase 5 Pre/Box: two years, not to say three, are a long periond.
Moreover if in this situation Amiga Inc. will cooperate, at least for a certain convergence on the OS 5.0, even better.
So... your opinion on my idea?
Michele: For now, this scenario has too many variables. Being developers, we need to be able to cunt on the support of the Amiga companies. We cannot risk to work for 12 months only to end up in an unsupported niche of a niche platform.
Luca: Finnaly talking about your projects, what's the future of Personal Paint, the gem of Cloanto, by seeing the present events?
Michele: Personal Paint 8 is definitely in the works, but new features like layers, true color and advanced animation funtionality require a re-write, rather than additions to the current code, as was in large part done until now.
The latest announcements strongly indicate that we need to write this new code to be as portable as possible, since all that we know about the new system is that it will be different than the current one.
Luca: And the other projects on the way? Amiga Forever?
Michele: It appears that the Amiga companies are officially expressing and endorsing the thoughts that are behind our Amiga Forever package. We can certainly not complain about this.
Luca: As an active Amiga developer, and by selling Amiga products, could you report us some clear informations on the various european markets and, if they exist, even the extra-european ones? I mean how the Amiga is spreaded in the world in relation to the sales, even if the esteem can't be sure and precise.
Michele: For most developers of commercial Amiga software, it is now impossible to get back what they invest in the development of new Amiga software. A small market still exists for Amiga-related hardware.
Luca: What do you think will happen in the future Amiga market?
Michele: I am just as eager to see what will happen as you are.
Luca: It's undoubtely clear that the Amiga market never got in trouble as now, so I think you seriously took in consideration the idea of abandoning it. But you have to pay attention to one thing: the PC market, even if immensly wide, is subordinate to a strong competition, differently form the Amiga one, which is more or less free for everybody.
Have you ever think about this problem? It's true that a vaild product has good chances for jumping off the bunch, but...
Michele: We often hear that, but I think that this consideration does not apply to quality software. A good product obviously can stay in the same pack as the competition, if not ahead of it.
To the contrary, I don't think it is fair for a group of, say, five Amiga programmers and artists, to work for 12-18 months in the development of a new Amiga game, and then only be able to hope to sell about 5000 copies. There is no way to make ends meet this way.
Luca: Moreover, programming on the Amiga, or at least for the Amiga, does give you the same emotions/satisfactions of the PC counterpart?
Michele: Considering that programming languages don't change that much across platforms, if you compare development tools, most other platforms are better off than the Amiga. This also applies to programming interfaces. I can't think of anything that the Amiga has, which other systems like for example Be, Linux, Windows or others (depending on what you are looking for) don't. I think it is just a matter of getting used to an OS.
Luca: A question I don't know if someone already asked you before: how and when did Cloanto born? And what's the meaning of its name? Is it an acronym?
Michele: Cloanto was incorporated in 1987, as an Amiga software company. "Cloanto" is not an acronym. The name was free, i.e. it was not in use by others, and I considered it easy to pronounce in different languages, so that's how it was chosen.
Luca: I know that a Cloanto's good habit is not to give news on upcoming projects not already finalized or at least not in an advanced phase (this is right for not giving false hopes); in any way is there something you can say on the future projects of your company? Even the non-Amiga ones.
Michele: We are continuing to invest in the Amiga, and for this of course we need a market to exist for Amiga software in the next months. But there will also be some new non-Amiga products.
Luca Ognibene thanks very much Michele C. Battilana for answering and for donating his precious time.