This time last year I wrote
an article entitled Turn of the Year which took a look back at the year
just ending. The year which is now drawing to a close has not been a
particularly good one for Atari and their followers so this time let's
cast an eye forward.
Over the past couple of
months there have been many rumours about what Atari will be doing next
year, much of it pure speculation, so to try and give you a factual
report of what you will see from Atari in 1985, I spoke to Jon Dean,
Computer Products Manager in the U. K Marketing Division. Sounding
positive and enthusiastic about the future he told me "It is
Atari's intention to provide the very latest technology at very
competitive prices". Some of you may feel that that is just good
sales talk so read on to find out what Atari will be doing in 1985.
To start with let's take a
look at what Atari are doing now. Most importantly they are advertising,
and spending £2 - 3 million up to Christmas, to make people aware of
Atari. They readily admit that they may not come out on top over
Christmas but part of the campaign is to make people aware once again of
the Atari name so that the new products to be introduced in 1985 will
get off to a flying start. During 1985 they will be spending
considerably in excess of the present advertising budget to bring new
products to the home and business markets and are likely with their new
16-bit machine, to create a new and exciting 'middle' market that will
blur the lines between home and business use.
The Company will operate on
three levels in future. They will continue to support the XL series and
will introduce refinements to the range. I put to Jon Dean the recent
report of a 128k 800XL but he was unable to confirm or deny this when we
spoke as no details or specifications had been provided to Atari in the
U. K. New products will be introduced and Atari is actively encouraging
third party software producers as well as planning some titles of their
own. Although termed the "lower-end" market, the XLs will not
be thought of as 'entertainment only' machines. The entertainment side
will not be overlooked but there will shortly be a range of General
Business applications and a range of Educational software which will,
subject only to memory restrictions, be compatible with the XL and the
400/800 computers. Some of these titles will be Atari's own but most
will be produced by third parties with the full support of Atari
Of immediate interest to
disk drive owners is the imminent release by Atari of a disk based
Adventure set in "sleazy down-town New Jersey". Titled THE
PAYOFF it is a text adventure intended to keep you busy for weeks or
Continued support of the
present range will be what many of you are looking for but the really
exciting developments will be in the 'middle' market where for the first
time Atari will really close the gap between the serious home user and
the small business. To be introduced at the CES show in the States in
January and expected here in April/May will be a new 16-bit machine very
similar to the Apple Macintosh but in colour. It will be driven by TOS -
the Tramiel Operating System - and be supported with a disk drive,
probably 3½ inch, and a monitor. The price for this machine? Around
£400. The latest technology at very competitive prices. The machine
will be fully supported with peripherals such as memory expansions
allowing storage in Megabytes.
What about software? Atari
are supporting development of software from some of the major U.K.
producers currently working in the 16-bit field to provide general
business programs as well as specific business applications. There will
also be entertainment software and educational software including
programs currently being developed at University level.
Sadly, but understandably,
this machine will not be compatible with any of the present Atari
machines but at the proposed price there is a strong case for the
serious user to either trade in their present system or run two systems!
For the first time truly 'serious' applications will be available to the
ordinary home user but if you only used the 16-bit machine for top-class
entertainment at first the enormous potential for wider use will be
there. Don't forget many of us paid almost this much for a 400 and
considerably more for an 800. Imagine Star Raiders in 16-bit! Imagine
also switching straight over to a Megabyte database!
Can there be more? At the
top end Atari is expected to introduce in late summer a 32-bit machine
to take the larger business market by storm. Look for the best 32-bit
machine around at the moment. Would you buy it at one fifth of the
price? That is what Atari are hoping to make possible in 1985.
Those are the three sides of
the new Atari. A company which now recognises that the U.K. and European
markets are distinct from the U.S. XL machines will be assembled in
Ireland from December and full manufacture of all machines for the
European market is expected there around Spring. No more product
shortages because the U.S. has to come first.
Jon Dean said I was spot on
with the Editorial a couple of issues ago when I said "Atari is
dead. Long live Atari". The Company that we all despaired over
during the past couple of years is gone. In its place is a vibrant new
Atari that will continue to support existing products and bring to the
world the very best computing technology that we have come to expect
from the name Atari.