quinta-feira, 17 de julho de 2014

Commodore and the Amiga Mistakes

Since Commodore took over the original Amiga Incorporation company, marketing and development strategic errors succeeded in flurry.

The Amiga Lorraine - the first Amiga, shown in 1984 - was initially thought to be a computer solely for gaming, but it’s development turned it into a complete home computer based on the Motorola 68000 processor that deviated it from the concept of console gaming.

It was at this point that Commodore entered the game and made ​​their first mistakes. They focused Amiga’s marketing into business and companies, despite their known multimedia capabilities. The Amiga also forced its users to acquire a dedicated colour monitor.

Only upon its release, Commodore realized that the Amiga was a creative machine and not to be used in dark offices with piles of paper to process.
Noting that, an external TV modulator, with a weak inspiration in terms of design (the A520), was announced after the release. However, its high price scared many customers.

This obstacle was only overcome a year leter. They started to include the A520 TV modulator inside the Amiga 500 package as part of a bundle thus making it less costly to purchase.

In July 1985 the original Amiga was renamed and marketed as A1000. Two years later, in 1987, the brand new Amiga 500 was a sales success. Besides this, it also appeared, in this same year, the Amiga 2000.

However, the development of a new chipset and a more visually appealing AmigaOS stagnated for years until the arrival, in 1990, of the A3000. This allowed the competition to catch up and even surpass the Amiga extraordinary features leaving Commodore in their dust. This lead to an accelerated development of the brand new ECS chip and the AmigaOS 2, which took about a year. Thus, theoretically, the A3000 could have been released in 1988, in other words, two years before its actual release, as well as future Amiga models, the A4000 and the A1200. This interregnum of two years in the shadow of the success of the Amiga 500 was the first big hole in an extraordinary vessel that started, at this precise point, it’s fast sinking.

In 1990 was launched the Commodore Dynamic Total Vision, best known has the CDTV. The company knew that this product was a total flop and forbid retailers to place it next to other computer products in their stores. They just did not want for it to be referred to as an Amiga.

The CDTV was basically an Amiga 500 inside a CD player case with a CD-ROM drive. The simple addition of a floppy drive and a keyboard would have allowed users to enjoy much of the existing Amiga 500 collection of software. But Commodore would not budge. For a year, its high price and the attempted removal of the product from the Amiga family was a mistake for which the unit and the brand itself never managed to recover. Commodore eventually renamed it to Amiga CDTV. But it was too late.

Due to the huge and unexpected sales success of the "A500 Cartoon Classics" pack, Commodore was obliged to anticipate the arrival of the Amiga 500 +. Needless to say, it resulted in an awful surprise to resellers. The Amiga 500 + was, without notice by Commodore, included in bundles and put on sale, which caused embarrassment to stores and driven customers to despair, because much of the already released software was incompatible with the new ECS chipset and AmigaOS 2.04 operating system from the A3000 model.
It was a very unhappy Christmas for many, and just the opposite for others, because they were unknowingly given a machine updated with a new chipset and OS.

The year was 1991 and a plan to replace the bestselling Commodore 64 was on the move. This would probably be Commodore’s biggest mistake: the Amiga 300. It was even referenced by the brand itself as a "complete and utter fiasco".
The company was desperate to withdraw Commodore 64 after 10 years on the market, despite the huge success that sales continued to demonstrate mainly in Europe. They intended to sell the Amiga 300 with a slightly higher price tag than the Commodore 64, but at least €120 cheaper than the A500+. It was, however, the first to include an IDE interface for hard drives and, to keep the price low, the keypad was eliminated. The Amiga 300 had its launch scheduled for spring 1992 and would refresh the line of 16-bit computers preparing for the arrival of the Amiga 1200, with a more advanced AGA chipset, which came in the autumn of that year. Commodore UK's strategy for Europe was to enter the holiday season with a good amount of A1200 and A300 machines at around €450 and €250 respectively. Bundles with Lemmings and Deluxe Paint III were planned and organized in a newly converted Timex factory, in Scotland, acquired by Commodore. When the machines were about to go into production, Commodore International pulled the rug forcing a 180 degrees sharp turn. The manufacture of the A500+ was becoming too expensive and their production is, therefore, canceled. The A300 was repositioned as a substitute for the A500+ and, to obtain a quick profit, was labeled at the same price of €350. To be seen by the public as the successor to the A500, the A300 was simply renamed to Amiga 600. The first motherboards still have 300 printed on them. Unsurprisingly the machine did not sell well, and to drain the huge stock of A600, the start of production of the Amiga 1200 was postponed. As a result, the available A1200 units for the 1992 Christmas sold out quickly leaving many customers angry and disappointed.

Commodore had, in 1993, the opportunity to emerge and prosper in the world of consoles with the Amiga CD32, but, once again, missed the chance.
Two years before the rise of the PlayStation, the CD32 had more than half of the emerging European CD-ROM market, annihilating, by Christmas of 1993, not just the PC CD-ROM but as well the Philips CD-i and Sega Mega-CD. Due to financial problems, Commodore was not investing in software development and the console could not stand out from the remaining Amiga family, as their extraordinary abilities were not being exploited. The first units also came with an annoying problem in the CD player lid that pulled the disc up preventing it from rotating. Just putting something heavy on top could be a solution for this situation. A very serious manufacture flaw. It would have made more sense to use a drawer for the CD, just like the one used, three years earlier, by the failed CDTV.

After all these strategic errors, the inevitable eventually take over Commodore International. It filed for bankruptcy in April 1994. Auctioning of the company was completed in March 1995 with some stakeholders. Escom appeared in a position where they could take the reins of the company, but its future intention was simply to use Commodore’s logo on PCs. In the other corner of the ring were the managers of Commodore UK - David Pleasance and Colin Proudfoot - who possessed the necessary funds and a well-designed strategic plan relocating the company's headquarters to Maidenhead - UK - as well as changing the name of the company itself. Evolving technologies would be resumed which included an upgraded A1200 with an integrated CD-ROM (repeatedly dubbed A1300), a renewed CD32 with a CD drawer and a new Amiga CD64 that would support HDTV.

However, the auction was won by Escom who kept everything, but it ended itself also in bankruptcy a year later.

Before that, Escom had managed to reintroduce the A1200 and the A4000 on the market, but unfortunately due to growing economic difficulties that the company was being targeted, only at the beginning and 1996 could market the A4000. This was identical in all respects to the Amiga 4000T, the tower model that Commodore had developed shortly before being sold at auction. However, due to Escom’s tough financial time, the model was never announced in advertising. Worldwide, it is estimated to have sold just about 2000 units.

Mistakes are costly. Commodore paid really hard for them all and, unfortunately, the Amiga family was the main victim.

We could today be facing a completely different reality in the personal computer panorama.

Amiga was a fairly resounding name in the late 80s, early 90s. Electronic saloon games of the season were the major drivers of the success of the Amiga 500 due to extraordinary conversions of arcade classics made ​​for this machine. All children and youngsters wanted to have an Amiga, despite its price being an obstacle to most families.

It has currently legions of fans around the world and Amiga family products are greatly coveted by collectors.

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