Classic Computer Magazine Archive Article from Compute! magazine

Editorís Notes

The recent Summer Consumer Electronics Show was both interesting and disappointing. Last year at this time, the industry was reeling from a tremendous downturn in sales growth, and the resulting shakeout had otherwise stable vendors describing those times as the end of the entire personal computer industry. A year later, we're still here, and the doom and gloom forecasters have retrenched. We're a wiser, more mature, and perhaps more stable industry, and the attitude among the exhibitors at the show was much more upbeat. We heard talk of steadily improving sales, enthusiasm for new products, and a better holiday season on the horizon. We also heard a general level of enthusiasm for the hard charging Atari Corporation, and a more specific level of disappointment at the Commodore showing. Atari had a large and impressive booth, impressive in that it contained dozens of smaller exhibits where independent vendors demonstrated software for the ST series. Visitors thus immediately encountered a tremendous amount of activity encompassed in a group of highly supportive people.

The Commodore appearance evoked a mixture of concern and amazement. Remember, we're talking about a company here with an active, enthusiastic installed base of literally millions of computers. We're talking about a computer series called the 64 that just keeps going, the 128 with a success record that we suspect even impresses Commodore, and the Amiga. One of the most technologically superior computers on the market, the Amiga continues to suffer at the hands of the superior marketing attack of the Atari-led Tramiels.

Commodore continues to insist that the Amiga is a business machine. One must assume that this is the reason none was present at CES. In the Commodore suite, only 64s and 128s were visible. It was simply amazing. And very quiet when we were there. The seeming lethargy in market positioning that has stricken Commodore since the introduction of the Amiga is one of the most shocking turnabouts we've witnessed in the modern history of this industry. One wonders whether the bankers have begun to call the strategic shots at Commodore.

We think that it is important to this industry as a whole that Commodore is, and continues to be, a viable player. Do not misunderstand. We saw nothing at CES that says it is not a viable company. We simply question the wisdom of its continued refusal to open up the Amiga market. Obviously such a decision is Commodore's, not ours, and obviously we're on the outside, but one can only marvel at the continued growth and success of Atari and the relative demise of the Amiga.

Last summer this time, both the ST and the Amiga were launched from an installed base of zero. Now, as we conclude the first year of product delivery, we find the ST with an installed base of roughly ten times that of the Amiga. Not a very stirring record. During this one year period, the ST has grown, evolved, expanded to include the 1040, undergone in Tramiel like fashion a predictable series of aggressive price cuts, expanded marketing outlets, etc. We've seen it all happen before with the VIC and the 64, but it's still quite impressive when it works.

Contrast with this the concurrent introduction of the Amiga. It was categorized, or defined, as a business machine. Its prices have changed only minimally. It has, to put it politely, withered. As we said, we think this industry needs Commodore, and it needs the vision and direction that a Commodore can help provide. We do not want it to be too late. Maybe if you gentlemen and ladies would just nudge the Amiga a little bit toward the consumer market, you'd be pleasantly surprised. Perhaps a price cut here, a market incursion there. You get the picture. You've got millions of users out here looking to you for technological leadership. Thanks.

Robert C. Lock

Editor in Chief