Carving A New Notch In A Computer Niche Commodore Is Going After Specialty Markets With Its Amiga 4000.

Posted: September 18, 1992

NEW YORK — Richard L'Hommedieu is a producer of video animation and a member of the relatively small following that has fallen in love with Commodore's Amiga computer.

Yesterday, he made his way to a fancy meeting room in the Waldorf Astoria here so he could get his first look at Commodore's latest Amiga, the 4000, at a news briefing.

Introduced a week ago at the "World of Commodore" show in Pasadena, Calif., the Amiga 4000 offers more power, more color and greater speed than the Amiga 3000, which used to be the top-of-the-line model.

L'Hommedieu knows the Amiga is not as popular in the desktop-computer world as are those IBM-compatibles and Macintosh systems. But he doesn't care. Borrowing from Commodore's marketing mantra, he declared: "Why should I get a clone or a Mac? They cost more and do less."

It's true enough that a Macintosh or IBM computer, outfitted to produce all the fancy graphics, stereo sound, and luscious color that Amiga is known for, would indeed cost more than the Amiga. It's also true that there aren't a lot of people who need to do all those things. And so Commodore has come to accept the Amiga for what it is, a niche player in the computer business.

Commodore president and general manager James J. Dionne says his computer is as good as IBM and Macintosh for any application. In multimedia, he feels he has them beat.

Industry analysts largely agree.

"Amiga is one of the best color computers on the market, but it has always suffered from having an operating system that is not a standard," said Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies International, a Santa Clara, Calif., firm that

keeps track of the personal-computer business.

That means that software developed for Macintosh or IBM-compatibles won't run on an Amiga without modifications. And because there are fewer Amigas than IBMs or Macs, there are fewer software developers writing Amiga programs.

So, for several years, Commodore has been trying to develop for Amiga four specific markets: video production, business presentations, corporate training and computer graphics.

Essentially, those markets all have in common the need for a computer that can manipulate and marry video, audio, text and data to produce eye-popping presentations.

The markets are populated by people like L'Hommedieu, who produces video animations for directors of television commercials.

"I know a guy who lost a $30,000 job because his IBM couldn't do chrome. Can I do chrome? What color chrome do you want?"

The 4000, Dionne said, is intended to solidify and expand Commodore's grasp on its niches.

"There's a perception that the Amiga is a great machine but that in some specific functions we might be losing ground to other platforms," Dionne said. "If we had fallen behind I think that with the 4000 we've caught up and surpassed them all."

The Amiga 4000 does carry a hefty price tag: With Commodore's top monitor and all the hardware needed for multimedia work, it goes for $4,414.

Dionne said Commodore had made marketing missteps in the past with Amiga.

"Frankly . . . the markets we talked about just weren't there," Dionne said. ". . . This kind of market wasn't available a few years ago. But it is now."

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