Even before the holidays started, Commodore Business Machines, once the sick man of computer manufacturers, expected a very merry selling season. Commodore marketeers were predicting worldwide sales of 300,000 Amigas during the last quarter of 1988. If that prophecy is fulfilled, it will push the Amiga over the 1 million sales mark, the magic number which is supposed to attract Microsoft, AshtonTate, and other big software houses to the machine.
It's too soon to tell, but my guess is Microsoft and company will never be interested in the Amiga, except in a peripheral way-the profit margins are too small, and, anyway, the machine is too much fun. No one is buying an Amiga to run databases or big spreadsheets. Desktop video, graphics design, color desktop publishing, and, above all, games will continue to power the Amiga market for some time. What was Lotus's last game title, anyway?
Deluxer than Ever
Deluxe Paint is getting another facelift from Electronic Arts (1820 Gateway Drive, San Mateo, California 94404, 415571-7171). Due out in late February, Deluxe Paint III will support overscan and the 64-color, Extra Half-Brite mode, real boons for desktop video artists. There is also a host of other minor improvements.
The tint brush mode and brush wrapping are welcome additions. In tint mode, you lay a translucent wash over related colors; this works best in the Extra Half-Brite screen format. With brush wrapping, you mold a brush to fill any bounded area. You can, for example, make the brush look as though it's mapped onto the surface of a sphere.
The big news, however, is Deluxe Paint III's page-flipping animation feature. Using ANIM compression routines, Deluxe Paint III will allow you to create and play full-color animations several seconds long at 30 frames per second (the standard video frame rate) or any other frame rate you specify. The maximum animation length depends on the screen format, how many bitplanes you use, and how much RAM you have installed. Animations can take up the whole page, or you can create-and paint with-animated brushes. Any frame can be cut and pasted anywhere else in the animation, and you still have a spare page. You can play your creations forward, backward, or in yo-yo mode. The results are remarkably smooth because Deluxe Paint III double-buffers the frames.
A slick feature combines the perspective and animation tools to automatically paint moving brushes across every frame. Once you've entered the necessary settings, Deluxe Paint III brushes will swoop, turn, spin, and zoom-while you go get a sandwich. This works especially well with text. Use a font program like Calligrapher or VideoTitler to create fancy display type; then load the type into Deluxe Paint III to render the text animation. The end product is as good as what you see on the typical local cable news show. And the whole thing is simple to learn and easy to use, which can't be said about many animation programs. It's so easy that you really don't need strong artistic skills to create useful animations.
Deluxe Paint III ANIMs are fully compatible with the Aegis/Sparta format, so you can play them back with the Aegis Player utility in VideoScape 3-D or with any other program that reads ANIMs. Every Deluxe Paint II owner-and that includes most Amigans-will want to upgrade.
Despite rumors you may have read elsewhere, sources at Aegis Development (2115 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, California 90405, 213-392-9972) insist that the company is neither going down the tubes nor abandoning the Amiga-a good thing, because Aegis has consistently been ahead of its time with Amiga graphics and sound software. Aegis Animator was the only animation package for the Amiga for more than a year, and Aegis VideoScape 3-D was the Amiga's first 3-D animator-in fact, the first complete 3-D animation program for any personal computer.
The best proof of Aegis's continuing vitality is the 20 Amiga products that the company has on the market or in the works. Aegis has just released Modeler 3-D, the longawaited 3-D object editor for VideoScape 3-D that will finally save VideoScape users from their bondage to graph paper and meter sticks. Modeler 3-D has a clean object-creation interface, and the program is compatible with Aegis Draw/ Draw 2000, meaning you can extrude into three dimensions any outline that you create with Draw. Modeler also accepts files created in Sculpt 3-D and Videoscape's EGG and OCT utilities.
By the time you read this, Aegis should also have released ANIMagic, a special effects program that will let you play separate ANIMs on the sides of a cube and create many other ADO-type effects. Add Modeler 3-D and ANIMagic to Lights, Camera, Action; VideoScape 2.0; VideoTitler; Animator; Sonix; Audio Master II; and Images; and you can see that Aegis has more product-line depth in the desktop video market than does any other company.
In fact, the burst of new graphics products for the Amiga is getting out of hand. The number of animation and 3-D packages is up to about two dozen, and each program has so many features that choosing one is almost harder than using one. And to think that just two years ago no one thought you could create real animation with a personal computer.
Speculation continues to fly about the Amiga 3000. The latest rumors are that the machine will sport a 68030 microprocessor (the same chip that's in Steve Jobs' NeXT machine and the Mac IIx) as well as memory management; a noninterlaced, 1K X 1K, 256-out-of-l6-million-color display; 4 megabytes of RAM; 2 megabytes of chip RAM; a better sound chip; an 80-megabyte internal hard drive; five Amiga slots; five IBM AT slots; and, believe it or not, an 80386 chip on the mother board (that's almost certainly not true).
The 3000 will come in a tower configuration, like the IBM PS/2 Model 80, and it will be about the same size. Workbench 2.0, which will supposedly run only on the 3000, will incorporate many of the functions of the CLI and have a much nicer look and feel than earlier versions of Workbench-nearly as nice as the NeXT desktop. This is definitely a machine to drool over. Don't expect to see any 68030 Amigas before the last quarter of 1989, but surprises are always possible from Commodore.
There's more substance to the claim that Commodore will be marketing the Amiga 2500UX soon, possibly by January. The A2500UX, positioned by Commodore as a rival for the Mac II and Sun workstations, will be a soupedup Amiga 2000 powered by a 68020 and with a 68881 numeric coprocessor. It will include a hard disk and a clone of System 5 UNIX with a proprietary windowing interface. (There will be a system board upgrade for current Amiga 2000 owners but no human brain upgrade to help us understand UNIX.)
As you might imagine, Commodore has no plans to mass market the A2500UX. Amiga 500s, however, will finally be flowing through the mass pipeline at Electronic Boutique, Walden Software, and Software, Etc. as per a November agreement in which these retailers also plan to carry at least 40 Amiga game titles in each store. This has Commodore dealers ticked off, but they might be satisfied with a lower-priced A2000 and the A2500UX, when it comes, to anchor the high end.
Commodore may also be keeping dealers happy with some of the long-awaited products it displayed (but didn't actually announce) at Fall COMDEX and World of Commodore, including the hires gray-scale monitor, the 80286 Bridgeboard, the fast 80-megabyte hard drive, and the professional video board. (Is it true, as some Commodore insiders claim, that CBM production managers hide when they see top management coming down the hall with a new product idea?)
One new Commodore product that is available and highly recommended for all Amiga owners is the Workbench 1.3 upgrade. It comes as a disk kit with the new 1.3 Kickstart for A 1000 owners and as a ROM chip and disk upgrade for A500s and A2000s. The new 1.3 ROMs are only available from authorized Commodore dealers and, according to Commodore policy, can only be installed by them. The price for chip, disks, and installation is $60-$70.
- Steve Anzovin