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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved



Amiga Technologies

In the time that Escom owned Commodore and the Amiga, they outlined several products and long-term goals. On this page I will briefly describe the company's purchase and sale of the Amiga.

The first stage of the Escom purchase was the separation of Commodore from Amiga, using the brand name as a method of selling off-the-shelf PCs to the European market. This had always been their main objective for the Commodore purchase, with the Amiga being an added extra. The company had already produced several thousand units that would be branded with the Commodore PC badge. This range - a mix of Intel Pentium 75 & 100 clones -were available in high-street stores just three months after the Commodore purchase (August 1995). The company were also selling a number of 'multimedia' peripherals, such as badged keyboards, speakers, CD-ROM drives etc. Escom were even planning to retool the C64 as a cheap computer for the eastern market.

In the Amiga arena Escom created a separate entity, Amiga Technologies to handle production and development. At the time there were high hopes for the continued success of the Amiga platform. In several statements, Escom claimed the Amiga was the main product that distinguished them from other brand PC sellers, claiming they had become a multimedia company. They also talked excitedly of the many advantages the Amiga offered - low-cost, pre-emptive multitasking and efficient memory structure - that even Windows 95 could not equal.

During one of the first conferences on the Commodore purchase, Escom promised that the A4000T would be available for sale by September 1995, with the A1200 and CD32 following a month later. However, they failed to deliver the product on time - the A1200 'Amiga Magic' bundle appeared in November 1995, while the A4000T only appeared in limited numbers in February 1996. It was later announced that the CD32 was to be updated to compete with the set-top boxes that were beginning to appear in the US. Then, in contradiction of earlier statements, Amiga Technologies announced they would not be releasing the CD32, effectively leaving it to die as a platform. Sadly this was only the beginning of their troubles. Once the machines had gone on sale, the Amiga market encountered additional problems - poor customer support and overexpensive hardware.

Contrary to earlier indications in the Amiga press, the A1200 Magic bundles went on sale for an extortionate £399 - £150 more than their price when Commodore had folded. In comparison to the A1200's 3 year old AGA chipset, Sony were selling their Playstation clone and the WIntel PC had exceeded the 100MHz mark. The only improvement was Kickstart 3.1 as standard - hardly worth the upgrade.

There was also confusion over who would be selling the Amiga; Amiga Technologies claimed that Escom would not sell the Amiga, as they would be required to train their staff to sell the Amiga. Escom contradicted this statement, indicating that their stores would be stocking the Amiga - an obvious lack of communication. It soon became obvious that Escom employees were actively discouraging the sale of Amigas in favour of PCs as they were more expensive and earned them better commission. The Amiga's presence was restricted to a solitary A1200, usually located in a dark corner, showing the purple "insert disk" screen. The Escom catalogue also promoted the Amiga as a kid's toy, destroying much of the work that the carefully chosen 'serious' applications of the Magic pack had attempted to create. Not a good start to Amiga's post-Commodore development.

Plans for the future

In spite of Escom's apathy regarding current Amigas, there were plans to develop a better model. The intention was to upgrade the A1200 to the 68EC030 CPU, while the A4000 would be sold with the 68060 CPU as standard. The existing market was to be bolstered by the release of an Amiga PCI card (similar to the Siamese PCI that was later announced), allowing PC and Mac users to run Amiga software. These plans were intended as short-term measures that would buy the company time to develop the real next generation model - the Power Amiga. The PPC-based desktop computer would compete with the PowerMac, creating a clear path for the future.

The End

As 1996 began, Escom stumbled into financial difficulties and lynch mobs roamed the company boardroom. In attempt to prevent further hemorrhaging, the company declared an end to PC production at their German headquarters in Heppenheim, ceasing development of their TV/Internet PC hybrid range. This was followed by the announcement they would be closing 65 of their 235 UK shops on 1st of July, with a loss of around 227 jobs. They also appealed for a Vergleich order from the German courts that would allow time for a company reorganization by rescheduling their debt payments (similar to Apple's previous intentions). However, with net losses of 125 million Deutsch Marks it was evident that they would be unable to remain in business for much longer, even with the injection of 100 million DM from the banks. Escom closed for the final time.

It would be impossible to identify a single issue that resulted in Escom's collapse. Although the poor profit margins of Amiga Technologies did not help the ailing company, their fate cannot be attributed to the "Amiga curse". The company were attempting to expand into an increasingly competitive market, selling PCs that were dropping in price by £50 a month. The customer base was also changing, symbolizing the appearance of the intelligent PC buyer - an individual who shopped around for the best deal rather than buying the first PC they saw. The DIY aspect of PC building was also having an impact upon company profits, removing the cost of a middle man. These factors, along with Escom's boardroom musical chairs left the company spending more cash than they were earning. Escom had become a victim of the WIntel computer boom.

However, it was not all doom and gloom for the company. Many European Escom offices succeeded in management buyouts allowing the company to continue in a limited fashion. Ironically the only people that really remember Escom are Amiga users, for PC users they are yet another dead PC seller. A savage irony indeed.


Last Update: 13/6/2002


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