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William Buck's speech and replies to questions at the Viscorp/Amiga
Technologies press conference at the World of Amiga Show, London, April 13
[AmigaNews of France has been kind enough to transcribe the Bill Buck
speech from the WOA UK show. We are grateful to be able to run the session
in nearly its entirety. -Jason]
This transcript is copyright AmigaNews (France). AmigaNews apologises for
the fact that a number of questions from the back of the hall were not
audible to us at the front. But despite that, we've put in this text all
of Bill Buck's answers...
There are many people that work for AT, but this man (Petro) is the man who
resurrected the Amiga and I think he deserves a round of applause for that.
First I want to let you know a little bit about who we are:
Curtis Gangi is a former Commodore employee. Don Gilbreath is the man who
engineered and designed the CDTV. He is a former Commodore employee.
David Rosen is also a former Commodore employee. We are people who believe
in this platform and who believe in this community, and I can't tell you
how happy I am that this conference just happened to be at about the same
time that we were able to finish our negotiations with Escom. We think
that the world is about to change in a lot of ways, and we think the
internet is part of that change. And we think that in the beginning of
Amiga it was about making it easy for people to use a computer, and one way
to do that was to put it on a television set. And that's what we're going
to do. We're going to bring Amiga back to where it was - BUT we're going
to keep Amiga where it is now, too. So don't forget about that. We need
you people to help us move forward in this vision that really, from the
very beginning, Amiga was built on. So, that's where we are. And that's
all I have to say.
Let me throw in another plus since we're in England. This is the people
we're working with here in the great UK. This is Optonica. This is Lee
Gibson and his people, and this will be part of our projects as well, you
can be sure.
Q: Will the Walker project be delayed by this?
Bill Buck: On the 24th of this month [This has changed] we'll be having a
press conference with Escom in Frankfort. Many of these things we're still
trying to determine. As you might guess, there's a lot of woork involved,
Curtis has been there this whole last week, I was there the week before,
we're involved in a lot of analysis right now, but on the 24th we'll try to
make a lot of those things clear.
Q: Is there any reason why you're paying 40 million dollars for...
Bill Buck: Well l'et's disect that 40 million number a bit. Everybody's
saying "Boy these guys really are crazy", or "they really like the Amiga a
lot". Remember, there was a certain amount of money that was paid for the
intellectual property. Then there was a certain amount of money that was
spent subsequent to that to put all these pieces together so that they
could come out the other end as computers, right. That cost a lot of
money, and you can be sure that's more than 40 million dollars, okay. What
we're buying is an asset, an asset that involves inventory, finished goods;
inventory components (which we can use to continue to do what was being
done but which we can also use to do what we want to do also, ), and the
intellectual property. So we think we're getting a great deal for that.
Bill Buck: I already said that, I said so we could keep doing what's
already being done.And that we could do what we want to do too. You know,
in the computer business it takes a lot of time to get all the pieces that
you need to make what you want. In some cases the waiting time for some of
these parts is as much as 21 weeks. One of the most fantastic
accomplishments that Petro made was that he was able to mobilise all these
different companies needed to supply these parts that could go into this
one thing and be an Amiga computer, and we want to keep that pipeline
going. Because it's not easy to start again.
Bill Buck: We have a meeting with Motorola on Wednesday, and probably the
most fair thing for me to say is stay tuned in and be there on the 24th.
Q: Will you ship the center of R&D back to the States?
Bill Buck: The great thing about the Amiga community and the great thing
about the world as it is today... I don't think there's ever going to be a
"ship to this" or "ship to that". We're working with Lee and his company
in the UK, we have three guys in Tokyo, (two guys in Tokyo and one guy in
some other place, Don?). Close, OK. We're working with people in
California, we're working with people in Westchester (Pa). Our engineering
team's in Westchester right now - they never left. All these things are
moving around in different ways. Visit our Web site.
Bill Buck: Well, all I could hear was the custom chip part. It's in our
interest to develop the custom chips. Right now there's three chips. If
we can make something that goes on one and it costs less it's better for
everybody. Of course we're gonna do that. We have a big interest in that.
Where that ends up ultimately? If its a chip it could be on a PC, it could
be in a TV, it could be wherever it needs to be to do what it needs to do.
We're going to support the development of these kinds of things because
it's in our interest to do that.
Q: If the link with Escom is broken...
Bill Buck: Nobody said it was broken. I spoke to Helmut Jost twice on the
phone yesterday. We have a good relationship and we're going to have a
good relationship. We're excited to work with a guy like Petro and Petro's
going to stay involved with this thing. We already have a distribution
arrangement with Escom. It was part of our original licence agreement,
which was signed in Décember of last year. Escom has the ability to
distribute our products in 13 or 14 different countries, I couldn't list
Bill Buck:I'll use the words of Helmut himself. Escom has a retailing
business. That's its strength, that's its core business, that's where
they're going to focus.
Question by Antony Jacobson, editor of Amiga User International:
Escom has been a disaster in this country, certainly from a retailing point
of view. When they took over Rumbelows chain stores the Amiga has had as
much trouble as it had previously. They have not done any better. If
you're depending on Escom in this country you'll have as much trouble as
the Amiga has had previously.
Bill Buck: Number one: we will use Escom as a distributor, you can be sure;
but you'll never hear the word "exclusive" coming out of my mouth, OK? So
there will be a number of different strategies that I'm sure will be
succesful. And you can help me be succesful. Here's my deal with you and
everybody else in this room. If you can help me figure out how to bring
the Amiga back where it was send me a letter, send me an e-mail message.
Send it to me, send it to Curtis, send it to Don, send it to Gilles, it
doesn't matter, send it to us, right? We'll capitalise on every single
good idea that you can give us.
Q: But the first thing you have to do is to support the software
developers. Nobody will buy the Amiga machines if there's not the software
to go with them. It's absolutely key that you get the software developers.
Bill Buck: I agree with you. Do you understand what our strategy is in
terms of what we want to do with the product as well? We had an ambition
for this thing when we licenced the product and now our ambitions are being
broadened because of this opportunity that's been created. But what we're
trying to build is a publishing environment. We had an appliance, a
toaster, a microwave oven, but we didn't have a place in the wall to plug
it in. There was no electricity. For us the internet is electricity.
We're building a publishing environment that works for people (who by the
way are Amiga people who understand this, and understand how to make things
for TV), where the interface is the television set. Could be the
television set. That was our original thing, that's the reason why we
licenced the technology...Now, we're so excited about it we don't know what
to do yet, I'll be honest with you. But come to the press conference on
the 24th and I'll give you some more information.
Q: Have you been in negotiations with people like NetScape for ports of
Bill Buck: All this activity around the <internet at the moment is a great
opportunity for people like you because this is a way to begin to
communicate with the rest of the people that use a TV set. But to get back
to your question, we're talking to everybody right now, because everybody's
interested in this. It's a great opportunity for people who know about the
operating system and how to make neat things on TV. If you think you can
make something that looks really really neat on TV, or computers, that can
be networked through the internet that we can work together on to
distribute, see David at the end of this press conference.
Bill Buck: We're scrambling. We had a business plan that we were going to
execute, all of a sudden this opportunity came up, we got off our marching
orders, but we think its a fantastic thing, we're gonna support it, and if
you've got ideas we want to hear about it. That's it.
Q: What about HDTV, digital television... There's so many ideas about
Bill Buck: Don't make a mistake. I am programmed on a business plan that
set us in a direction that gave us a reason to licence the Amiga technology
in December of 1995. Today I find myself, we find ourselves, with an
opportunity that's much broader than that. Don Gilbreath in the back (he's
the tall, good-looking guy), is the guy who's engineered all of these
things already. We have a whole strategy, and the whole construction of
our technology is modular, it fits perfectly with what the technology of
the Amiga's all about.
Q: The European idea of a set-top box is an HDTV...
Bill Buck:It's true, that is the European idea right now, let's just say
that we may or may not share that vision, that's all. We can support it,
but we have a more simple version in mind. Something that's more
consistent with what exists today.
Bill Buck: That's what we're hoping to be able to do. I'm not making any
grand pledges today but that's certainly what we're trying to do. I don't
want to spend 75 million dollars like Trip Hawkins did to develop the
community. The community's already there.
Q: Why didn't you buy Amiga when it was up for grabs for a lot less?
Bill Buck: I was there; I sat right next to Manfred in New York City at the
bankruptcy hearing. They paid a certain amount of money for the
intellectual property. That included also a certain amount of inventory.
Some of that inventory was sitting in a warehouse in the Philipinnes. Been
through at least one cyclone... And nobody knew what was there. Stuff was
scattered all over the three winds. They assembled it and I can tell you
that the cost of putting all those pieces together was far greater than
what they paid for it.
Q: Tell us about Viscorp.
Bill Buck: We're a little americain public company who's taken advantage of
all the wonderful media coverage and expectation of the future of the
internet. That's what we've done. And we've leveraged that in the
American capital markets. That's why we have a 200 million dollar market
cap. And that gives up the ability to leverage that to gain the financing
that we need to make all these things happen. We're doing the American
dream right now and we hope to use that to support the technology and our
vision out to the rest of the world. Viscorp was originally incorporated
in 1990, but the company really changed directions in november 1994.
Q: The Amiga is a computer and you just have to show us that any future
development is not going to be just a kind of set-top box.
Bill Buck:You know, what I always like to say is "Amiga Inside"
Q: Yes I know but the (interrupted)
Bill Buck:It's kind of catchy, maybe somebody will pick it up...
Bill Buck: What was the Amiga built to do? (interrupted)
Q: ...set-top box...I just want a straight answer on it..
Bill Buck:It just happened two days ago and I'm trying to catch my breath.
He's basically said that he's afraid we're not going to support the
development of the computer..(interrupted)
Q: The set-top box is fine but..
Bill Buck: We want there to be a big Amiga community so...(interrupted)
Q: We need a straight answer...
Bill Buck:Is there anybody in the room that would like to answer his
question because I'm sure I already did. I made a point at the very
beginning that we intend to continue forward with what's happening. We're
going to do our best to do that. We have a vision and we have a business
plan and that's why we licenced the technology in the very beginning. Now
we have an opportunity to make a broader (interrupted)
Bill Buck:You're very rude, I can tell you. Does anybody else want to ask
me a question?
Q: What parts of the Amiga are you using in the set-top box?
Bill Buck: Some of the pieces that we use right now, as an example, are the
chip-sets that made the Amiga what it is. The operating system of course
is a great thing, and we intend to use that as well. We've changed the
board design a little but, and there's an example, that can be used with a
computer too. We've done a lot of things that interface quite well with
the telephone infrastructure and the future of wwhere we think the
communications market is. It's a 68000 series processeur, that's what
we're using right now and we're going to keep using that. If we have a
good meeting of Wednesday with Motorola and things develop like I think
they might there could be other chances to do things.
Bill Buck:Its a question about us combining the chipsets. It's our
intention to do that... I think we're goiing to add some other features in
there. We want to be able to provide an opportunoity to lots of people .
We intend to licence this widely, widely, and we think that we can maintain
support for the computer industry, for the television industry, for the
kidney dialasis machine industry, or whatever it is, by licencing, and we
intend to do that in a very very supportive way.
End of press conference.
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