Thoughts on the Amiga X1000

by Eric Schwartz
from the AmiTech-Dayton Gazette, January 2010

Well, as we jump into an all new year, the world of the Amiga and its relatives continues to lurch forward in new and interesting ways. In the closing months of last year, the long dispute between Amiga Inc. (or whatever they call themselves now, if anything) and OS-maker Hyperion was concluded, with Hyperion effectively the winner, and the new "Amiga" company for all practical purposes. Meanwhile, the MorphOS team released their first version of the operating system to run on Mac (Mini G4) hardware, with further models to follow. While neither of these things are ground-shaking, they both offer steps forward, either directly or potentially, over and above the relative stagnation that has prevailed for several years.

Shortly after the new year, an announcement was made from Hyperion and a hardware producer calling itself A-EON. Their announcement was called the "AmigaOne X1000," a new Amiga system with title tribute to the original Amiga A1000 model. The specifications for this system are a little vague of this writing, but a few notables include some form of dual core PowerPC CPU, the usual set of common computer interfaces (SATA, PCI-e, USB 2) along with a new "Xorro" interface, and a customizable "Xena" chip. Exactly how this all comes together is anyone's guess at this point, as an announcement with nothing concrete to show constitutes vaporware. Still, there's some interesting potential. The customizable Xena chip would seem likely to be some kind of FPGA chip, as seen in the Minimig and similar hardware, which may give the X1000 a capacity for Amiga legacy compatibility not seen before, as it may be able to recreate the classic hardware with its own -- or non-Amiga hardware as well. A lot of applications for software-modifiable hardware are possible, given the imagination and ingenuity to use it.

The main issue as I see it is not so much the exact hardware specs as the idea that this is would be the first new serious hardware since the early Amiga One and Pegasos systems which used the PPC G3/G4 processors. There were later new systems supported by AmigaOS and MorphOS, such as the Efika and SAM44O, but these were limited "embedded" systems which didn't compare well with their own predecessors, and were ill-suited to more demanding uses. While this Xl000 is not bleeding-edge tech by any stretch, it at least looks like a step or three forward, instead of sideways or backward. It's apparent a future version of Amiga OS will run on this, perhaps Linux too, as that's the usual way of things. Not surprisingly, there have already been inquiries on whether the MorphOS team will port their OS to the new X1000 machine. The response was that they were concentrating on expanding their coverage of PPC Mac hardware. They've already been criticized for that answer, but the truth is they can't write or port software for something which doesn't yet exist aside from a set of in-specific specifications, or even make a well-informed decision on whether they want to or not. While it's certainly nice to have a wide variety of OS choices on a wide variety of hardware, it's not a requirement to have everything on everything else as long as you can find an option that works best for you. I wish Hyperion and A-EON the best of luck in their endeavors, and I will be watching their progress with great interest, even if I might be more likely to upgrade to a MorphOS-loaded MAC for the time being. Actually I'm doing neither until I'm ready, and the right combination of hardware and software is ready for me to buy.