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compt.sys.editor.desk By: Jason Compton
The Osbourne Syndrome in the 90's
The word "Osbourne" means a lot of things in the computer industry, all of
them bad. Around the story of the Osbourne computer company, an illness
known as "The Osbourne Syndrome" has been diagnosed, and its mention sends
executives and users alike into panicked states.
The story, briefly, which spawned this fearful syndrome goes something like
this: Many years ago, the Osbourne Computer Company put out a machine,
known creatively as the Osbourne. People bought it, the company was ready
for expansion and new products, so they devised a new machine and told
everyone what a wonderful creation it would be.
Suddenly, nobody wanted to buy the Osbourne computer anymore. They were
just waiting around for the NEXT thing, the computer they'd been promised
that would be far superior to the original Osbourne. Osbourne's revenues
dried up and the company went out of business without even having the
chance to release this new machine.
Since that day, conventional wisdom says it's almost always bad to tell the
buying public about any new machines that may or may not be coming, or
they'll stop buying your current product (which of course is financing your
future development) and you'll be out of business. It is this sort of
thinking which people attribute to the poor sales of Commodore's Amiga 600,
a machine released when it was reasonably clear that superior AGA machines
were shortly around the corner.
Along these same lines, many of the very vocal calls for insight as to
Amiga Technologies' engineering direction have been countered with stern
warnings against the Osbourne Syndrome. These arguments say that by
tipping their hand now, Amiga Technologies will Osbourne themselves,
halting sales of the Amiga and bankrupting the company, terminating all
Amiga development for good.
There may be some validity to this argument. After all, what red-blooded
Amiga user wants to pay US$2700 for an Amiga 4000T, AGA, and 040/25 when
the promise of something BETTER looms on the horizon?
The problem here is the rest of the real world. No longer are
announcements of upcoming products and enhancements and speed increases
taboo or devastating to a company's future. On the contrary, they're
common practice. Today's computer industry does their business relying on
More to the point, today's computer buyer makes their choices because the
technology will continue. Everyone knows that in two months, the top clock
rate on the Pentium will go up and new machines will go on the market.
Everyone knows that in labs in Asia, hardware hackers are plying away on
newer, better graphical chipsets. Everyone knows software will improve and
be upgraded--for a fee--over time. Corel sells four different versions of
Here we have our quandry. The rest of the computer industry, which dwarfs
the Amiga industry by a staggering amount, is no longer subject to the
limitations of Osbourne's folly. The flow of information on
"bigger-faster-better" is what keeps the PC industry running. It builds
the confidence which keeps the virtual monopoly going.
Is the Amiga confined to the Osbourne Syndrome while the rest of the
industry announces its plans with impunity in order to survive? I
personally find that the A600 suffered not from the knowledge of AGA, but
from its excessive price for outdated technology--outdated EVEN IF AGA was
still a secret. Amiga Technologies has had sales far under its 1995
projections, and the Syndrome has again been blamed. But again, it seems
to be a case of too much money for too little innovation, holding A1200 and
A4000T sales down to upsetting levels.
If the Amiga market is to maintain its loyal flock, and is to have a chance
of expanding into new groups of consumers, and most importantly recapturing
the very significant portion of the computer buying public who is
Amiga-literate but have written the machine off as an also-ran, things MUST
change. Amiga Technologies has to realize that it is with open policy,
communication, and the ability to write copious press releases with the
best of them that they will have a chance of survival in this very
difficult computer market.
Osbourne's days are over. It is time for something new.
PS. Sorry this issue is so late, but non-AR concerns have kept us very
busy recently. Escom went through a very rough period, as the news attests
to, but the worst of the storm may be over as they have reached a financing