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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved


"....it is time for a radical leap forwards in technology that needs to be
born by a vision of a computer for the next millennium."
Wolf Dietrich, Managing Director of Phase 5.

For a brief time after Escom went into liquidation it seemed that the only hope the Amiga would have was through the efforts of Phase 5 to create an illegitimate successor called the A/Box. It had already invested seven figure numbers into revitalising the Amiga and creating a new Amiga based system. One that is both competitive to the PC whilst remaining relatively cheap compared to similar specced machines. The concept was seen as perfectly updating the Amiga philosophy into the 1990s using an integrated custom chipset known as Caipirinha and a custom Unix derivative. The company also used their control of the Amiga PowerUP PPC cards to lock users into their own upgrade path to the mythical A/Box.

At the time Phase 5 were one of the only companies that appeared serious to invest money into the Amiga market and move it away from the ageing 68k platform. The first PowerPC cards were released during April 1997 to widespread applause, followed by a custom interface for the Permedia graphics cards, CyberVision PPC for the A4000. As the manufacturer to create a non-68k Amiga the company had shown they were serious about its user. This was soon followed by A1200 versions of the cards. Despite the company's questionable level of support many Amiga users were quietly hopeful that Phase 5 would buy the Amiga. If the company ever had any intentions they masked them well, and did not publicly announce a bid. It would not have mattered anyway as they would not have been able to compete against the financial muscle of Gateway that had suddenly entered the bidding.

The Gateway purchase signalled the end of Phase 5's desire to develop an Amiga descendant. Capitalising on their previous relationship with Amiga Technologies, Phase 5 became an official Amiga licencee, announcing the development of a AmigaOS 3.x-based clone called the pre/box that boasted an astounding 4 PowerPC processors. The end of 1997/early 1998 was also marked by their conflict with Haage & Partner over the development of the PPC kernel. Haage & Partner argued the original PowerUP kernel was too Unix-orientated, developing the Amiga HUNK format. Phase 5 were understandably annoyed at a 3rd party messing around with their hardware, leading to both companies engaging in bloody slanging matches on Usenet. Phase 5 also attempted a Microsoft tactic by burning the PowerUP drivers into the hardware, preventing the accelerator from booting WarpOS.

The arguments continued until May 1998 when Amiga Inc. blindsided every Amiga company to their plans to develop the Amiga for the Digital Convergence market. Suddenly the PowerUP/WarpOS debate became unimportant. Both companies were threatened with extinction as Amiga broke with previous plans for the PowerPC and pursued a mystery platform. Phase 5 in particular had placed a great deal of money into developing the PowerPC platform and were forced to quickly abandon the technology. The pre/box was quietly cancelled and the hostilities were ended with Haage & Partner. A few hours after the announcement was made at the World of Amiga show, both companies met to hammer out a proposal that would save the PPC effort. Phase 5 conceded software development to work solely on the PPC hardware. It was an uneasy truce but it stabilised the PPC market and tempted a few more to purchase a PPC accelerator.

Over six months passed and Phase 5's new plan remained a mystery. Many were pessimistic about the company's continued presence in the Amiga market. Sales in the Mac market were respectable in spite of efforts by Steve Jobs to close the Mac architecture from clone development. The Amiga PowerPC market was profitable, but could hardly compare to the multi-million dollar industry of the Machintosh. The silence was broken by the announcement of the second wave PowerPC cards based upon G3 and G4. Although hesitant at first, Phase 5 were spurred on by announcements from several other developers that had promised to release G3 cards. The race was on, and it seemed only a matter of time to see who would make to the market first.

Meanwhile Amiga were having internal difficulties that lead to QSSL being abandoned as an OS partner, in favour of Linux. With the Amiga MCC looking more like a Linux variation Phase 5 jumped upon the opportunity to create a new Amiga derived platform. Just three days after Amiga announced their divorce with QSSL, Phase 5 proposed. The result was the AMIRAGE K2. The machine was a recognisable descendant of the pre/box combining four PowerPC processor with the promise of digital convergence. The partnership with QSSL also went some way to repairing the company's damaged reputation towards software development. This seemed all in vain when, at the beginning of February 2000 it was announced that Phase 5 had entered liquidation. At the moment the final outcome of this is not known- DCE are negotiating with the liquidators to continue the development of the G4 accelerators.

After million of marks in development costs the phase 5 journey seems to have finally ended. The company had, for a long time been the staple diet of Amiga users desperate to upgrade their machine. Without the promise of the PPC boards it is likely that the Amiga market would have died. However, as the company's abortive negotiations with Amiga have shown, they never could become the centre of attention.



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