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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved



Commodore UK MBO

Commodore UK were the last subsiduary of the once great company to exist, operating as a going concern more than a year after their parent company had deceased. For a time they moved into the global limelight with a proposition to buy Commodore International, its patents and trademarks. From May 1994 to March 1995 numerous statements were made that the company was on the virge of buying Commodore. They even set up 2 phone numbers to keep Amiga users up to date with events. Many rumours found their way into the mainstream Amiga press leading to many magazines confirming the Commodore UK purchase. It was a time of confusion for the Amiga industry that led to millions dropping the machine. But what would have happened if Commodore UK had bought the Amiga? The entire industry would be radically different. Maybe for better or for worse. To give an idea of what the future would have been if Commodore UK had bought the Amiga and what their plans were. Amiga History Guide presents this hypothetical article on what might have been.

The company itself

If they had become the official Amiga owners during 1994/5 Commodore UK would have undergone a radical change . For the company Maidenhead, England would have been the centre of the Amiga universe and would have reverted back to the name of the Amigas original owner, Amiga Inc. The new Amiga Inc/Commodore UK  would play a managerial role, developing and marketing products rather than taking the manufacturing themselves. The UK market would be the primary focus at first but the company would soon focus on other countries soonafter. There were no subsidiaries planned for the first 12 months, instead a range of  distributors would be appointed in each country that would ensure that dumping prices, price wars or grey imports were not possible. To ensure that users have a reliable support network, wherever they are, Commodore UK would establish a dealer network under the title, 'ACE'-Amiga Center of Excellence." This was planned to develop from simple distribution and support into a mutual supported network that would be able to develop advertising and marketing campaigns.

The research and development side was also planned to be worked on, increasing the engineering workforce in Norristown, USA from 18 to 60 people. This group would have been split into two or three areas- engineers maintaining and supporting current technology and from that developing different models to fill some market gaps (the development of the A1200 into the A1300, etc). The second group would have been working on new technology, such as the HP-RISC project. The third group formed would have been a software and peripheral development support team here in Maidenhead. Strategic partnerships would be formed with manufacturers such as Scala, Newtek, HP, and Samsung. These alliances would be a sign of mutual support for the company, licensing the Amiga technology to others and developing other products for the Amiga.

Existing Amigas

At the time David Pleasance commented the companies first move would be to bring back the current Amiga technology, including the CD32, A1200, A4000, A4000T, and FMV module. At the time of Commodore International's liquidation, the FMV module was still in the prototype phase and there were only 1000 A4000T's produced.

Future Amigas

We are not going to bring out any new lines until all the current lines are back on the shelves again, so probably we are talking about 5 or 6 months after we launch the products we'll bring out some new stuff. They're all all ready to go, but it's too much trouble to.
- David Pleasance, World of Amiga 1994.

Commodore UK were planning to develop the current Amiga technology for the next year (1995, although a next generation Amiga would likely have slipped to 1996). An unconfirmed rumour suggested that the new line that is referred to would be based upon an upgraded A1200. The Amiga 1300, as it was dubbed, would feature an 25 or 33MHz EC030, 2Mb Chip, 2MB Fast RAM, as well as an internal CD-ROM and an optional hard drive (the hard drive would be added by local dealers to take advantage of the latest prices). This rumour had been circulating for a number of months before Commodore went into liquidation, the A1300 would have been a prototypical design created by Commodore UK. David Pleasance also confirmed the development of an Amiga card for the PC (similar to the InsideOut). In an interview at the World of Amiga 1994, he commented,

"... what it will also do of course, is enable the PC for the very first time ever to become compatible with video. So we think there's a huge opportunity there. It's probably a product which we won't sell and market ourselves - it'll probably be licensed in the PC market, because it makes sense for us to do that, but I think that'll be pretty exciting. That will bring in a lot of development back."

It is only recently that processing speeds have been sufficiently fast enough to emulate an Amiga. Back in 1994 the only option would be to create a hardware-based emulator that physically included the processor. The Amigas multimedia heritage would also have been built on with a range of Amiga-based consumer items based upon the CD32. At the time Digitial Convergence was a new phrase that few had heard of, yet it indicates the type of market penetration that Commodore UK were looking for.

The other thing we want to do is to actively pursue... I've had two conversations with companies who manufacture hi-fi products, because I'd like the CD32 to sub-license it to people to provide a stack system, so instead of just having an ordinary CD in the hi-fi they have CD32, but front-loaded type of thing, because that's more and more reasons for development of software, and gets more and more Amiga technology into the home.
- David Pleasance, World of Amiga 1994 interview

The philosophy behind the Amiga MCC does not seem that far from Commodores' own. The possibility of a redesigned CD32 was investigated by Amiga Technologies, the Escom subsiduary a few months later but was forgotten during 1996.

The release of Amigas based upon 68k technology would simply be the precursor to the true next generation Amiga. Unsurprisingly, the Commodore UK proposal is very similar to Commodore International's plans for the platform. David Pleasance commented that the system would be based upon a RISC core, that would include a built-in 3D rendering engine with full texture mapping and polygonal control, as well as hardware-based MPEG decoding and streaming. In an interview with CU Amiga he commented,

Ours is a complete chipset, in the tradition of Amiga. It has a real-time 3D rendering engine with full texture mapping, compatibility with full motion video, MPEG, and also... I'll need to double check on this [it's not been finally confirmed yet] ... 22 voice, 16-bit stereo [sound]. It is a very comprehensive and effective system which we're going to be making available in a modular form, one [where] the low end products will have two modules, but with the capability to be upgraded. Obviously the hig workstations will have a lot of modules. We'll be giving the end user the opportunity to buy at a low entry point and then expand as their needs require; that in itself is pretty special.
To put things in perspective our estimation is that a CD games console based on this technology will give a power performance something like 20 times better than Ultra 64, which we beleive to the best spec product planned to come out in the near future.
And you're talking about a graphics worstation that is something like times more powerful than the 4000 for no more money -and possibly less.
The company were convinced the Amiga RISC system would succeed. In his interview at the WoA 1994, David Pleasance suggested the machine would be able to run a version of Windows NT and run Mac software through emulation. However his comments are laced with unconfirmed comparisons (4 - 5x the speed of Pentium) that tell very little about the system.
My understanding is that this particular system will be the most transparent that's on the market and will be able to run, with emulation certainly, Macintosh products. But without emulation our understanding is that this processor will run DOS software through Windows NT and we have been told that it will run something in the region of 4-5 times faster than the Pentium and 35 times the speed of a 040 A4000.
At the time the project was roughly 30% complete and would have taken a minimum of 18 months to come to the market. If Commodore UK had succeeded in purchasing the Amiga, the new Amiga may have been released sometime during 1997. The real power behind the project was its modular basis that allowed it to be easily scaled all the way from low-end console devices to workstations. David Pleasance explained the concept during the WoA '94 interview.
"...basically we're using the technology for consumer products and top end products - the way it's been designed is that there'll be certain modules, and you might have one module in a low end games console - CD based - and you might have 4 or 5 modules in a graphics workstation, but each machine has the ability to be upgraded. I think that's a very important thing to do."
For a brief time Commodore UK looked certain too buy the Amiga. Numerous press releases stated Commodore UK had bought the Amiga technology, only to be denied. The date of a final showdown was set for the 18th April 1994, less than two  weeks before the 1st anniversary of the company's demise. Despite the interest from a number of other buyers, the UK team seemed confident they would win. Without warning, the rug was pulled from under them when the financial backer swapped sides to support another contender, Escom. It was later discovered Commodore's financial backing was none other than New Star, a Chinese company that would later become an Escom licencee. The Commodore UK management buyout team were forced to swallow their pride and issued a statement they were out of the running. The company existed for a few more weeks before being absorbed by the Amigas new owners, Escom. Their press statement read:
Title: Press Release

April 21st 1995


Commodore/Amiga UK Management Buyout

During the last few days leading up to the bidding process it

became clear that ESCOM and their associates or DELL COMPUTERS

would have the financial muscle to overbid our independently

financed offer.

In the circumstances the UK Management Team took the decision to

withdraw early and work with the winning bidder.

In this way our ability to achieve our original objective of

re-establishing the Amiga in a prominent position in the marketplace

would be maximised.
Given Escom's financial history they were the perfect parent to the Amiga, but as everyone knows, they only delayed production of the Amiga and forced it through a second liquidation. If Commodore UK had bought the Amiga it would have been in a much stronger position but would likely have been reduced to the niche status of Acorn- popular in the UK but almost unheard of overseas. The Commodore UK branch would have been an easy target for anyone wishing to buy the Amiga technology. A tempting offer for any Microsoft wannabe.

Read the Letter to the Community
Read the XMas announcement
Commodore UK withdraw from bidding


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