Be: An OS for the 'prosumer'

Summary:On the day after consumer advocate Ralph Nader asked Americans to pick a non-Microsoft operating system, Be Inc. is making the choice easier.

On the day after consumer advocate Ralph Nader asked Americans to pick a non-Microsoft operating system, Be Inc. is making the choice easier.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company said it will ship the Intel-based version of its OS by the end of March. At the company's developers conference Thursday, several Be partners also unveiled a slew of sophisticated video-editing and office applications that will be in stores by June.

"I must be enthusiastic, but I must also be scared," said Be CEO Jean-Louis Gassee, who was once the head of research and development at Apple Computer Inc. "When we started, we encountered great skepticism from observers. Investors said, 'Look, IBM couldn't do it.' "



To Be or not ...


Be prepares to take off


My dinner with Gassee




But a year later, with support of industry heavyweights like Intel and a recent cash infusion of $24.5 million, the company is poised to market its OS to millions of multimedia enthusiasts. Be has said repeatedly that it doesn't intend to take on Microsoft, but to complement it. The BeOS is aimed at multimedia experts and what the company calls "prosumers," hobbyists with a taste for high-end video, audio and graphics. The software will cost $99.95 with an introductory special of $69.95.

Intel: Win-Win
And companies such as Intel Corp. (INTC) think Be will succeed.

"The universal reaction when people saw the product was 'I didn't know a PC could do that,' " said Claude Leglise, vice president of the content group at Intel.

'Microsoft is in the bus business; what we intend to build is a Porsche.'
-- Greg Galanos of Be partner Metrowerks

Intel is hoping BeOS will create demand for its chips because it can run on several processors. "Be fits in beautifully because it supports a set of sophisticated applications that are not available with this type of quality and perfection until today," Leglise said.

More software to come
Oakland, Calif.-based Adamation Inc. demonstrated such software Thursday, showing a package that lets users edit two live audio streams and insert features such as wipes and page turns. Adamation President Stephan Adams said working with a new OS lets his company innovate.

"It's on a new platform that big changes happen. If you're in with the big boys, all you get is the crumbs," Adams said, referring to established Windows developers.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Gobe Software Inc. showed off office applications that let users rotate graphs and charts, render multiangle 3-D views of them, and drag them across pages. And messaging application maker BeatWare Inc. is planning software that lets multiple users manipulate documents in real time across networks.

As for Be, the company is promising features such as enhanced interaction between BeOS and other platforms as well as improved audio, video and printing capabilities when it introduces the next version of its OS in September. As Greg Galanos of Be partner Metrowerks Inc. told developers, "Microsoft is in the bus business; what we intend to build is a Porsche."

Topics: Intel, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Operating Systems, PCs, Software, Windows

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