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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved


PIOS - the Creative Concept
Developer: PIOS
Announcement: 1997

By the mid 1990s the PowerPC CPU had gained significant support; Apple launched their first PowerMac in 1994, IBM were using it as an embedded processor, and a common PPC hardware was being debated. The notion that PowerPC could become a serious alternative to the x86 platform was a realistic proposition.

The next two years strengthened these beliefs producing several interesting announcements; the Common Hardware Reference Platform was established and Apple were allowing third parties to license the MacOS, LinuxPPC was gained considerable ground, and ProDAD had announced the development of an Amiga-compatible OS. The future appeared bright!

This is the market that a start-up called PIOS found themselves. The company, consisting of former Amiga employees,  John Smith, Dr. Peter Kittel, Dave Haynie, Andy Finkel, and others, intended to stake a claim in the expanding PowerPC frontier. Using a combination of existing and new standards, PIOS aimed to create an alternative to the WIntel market and a competitive PPC machine. There was a sense of convergence that would allow Amiga, Macintosh, and Atari owners to join forces and support one centralised platform.

"The top board is a Rev 1 motherboard. This one had three ISA bus slots, which were later removed. The three PCI slots were extended to six in the "final" board. The next slot over is the Audio Slot, which was changed to a digital audio expansion port instead. In both cases, the idea was to augment the on-board audio with a cheap, multi-channel add-in. The final slot is the CPU slot, naturally" * PIOS One motherboard
"The second card is the Rev 2 CPU module. The Rev 1 module supported the older Motorola MPC105 "North Bridge" chip, this one supported the then newer MPC106 chip. There's actually a real PowerPC 603 CPU on board here, the PGA socket is essentially an expansion socket, for the standard PowerPC "Interposer" module. This card would take three 64-bit DIMM modules for main memory." * PIOS One Rev2

The result was the PIOS ONE - a modular approach to computing that would support cheap expansion solutions (PCI, ISA, USB, etc.) and adopt a multiple OS solution - Mac users could buy a PIOS One machine and MacOS, Amiga users could buy pOS, etc. The operating system would differ, but the underlying hardware would remain the same.

The multiple markets would increase competition and reduce consumer costs.

Mac & Amiga: Unified against the WIntel threat!

The initial plan was to launch several variations for the Macintosh and Amiga market. In an attempt to discover a 100% Amiga compatible OS, PIOS delayed the launch of the TransAM (aimed towards the Amiga market), and launched several Macintosh clones, such as the low-end Maxxtrem and high-end Keenya. Negotiations were planned with Viscorp to port the OS to PowerPC.

By mid-1997, several manufacturers had signed for a Macintosh license. However, the Apple management were having second thoughts about the licensing agreement. In a contradiction to their previous agreement the company requested licensees to  pay higher royalties or, in some circumstances, refuse to enter into new agreements for MacOS 8. This was followed by the cancellation of the cloning programme, due to third party competition effecting Apple sales. The PIOS One machines no longer had a market to compete in.

The PIOS One was dead in the water. Without Apple or Amiga to provide an OS solution, it could only rely upon Be or Linux. However, Be were also suffering in the PowerMAC market and were preparing to migrate to the x86 platform. It appears that the 'creative concept' was over..


In an attempt to distance themselves from the mistakes of the past, PIOS relaunched itself as Met@box in August 1999. This was followed by a new long-term strategy with QNX to develop set top boxes, data broadcast systems, and workstations. However, the company only lasted another two years, initiating liquidation proceedings in 2001.

* text based upon Dave Haynie auction for the PIOS One


Early PIOS  One specification list
What operating systems would the PIOS system use?
The initial Pios Team


Last Update: 1/11/2001

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