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What's Be?


In 1990, Jean-Louis Gassée, former president of Apple's product division, formed Be, Inc. to address the problems involved with older computer operating systems head-on -- to step beyond the evolutionary approach to personal computing architectures. To see what could be accomplished if you built a personal computer using new assumptions, based on cutting-edge software design concepts, and designed for the next decade's applications, rather than the last decade's. The result is an operating system with a new level of price-performance and a dramatic reduction in the complexity of software development.

Read more about the philosophy behind Be's formation and product development, read the Media OS white paper.

What is the BeOS?

The BeOS is, quite simply, an operating system. An operating system provides programmers with a means of performing input and output to and from the hardware of a computer. For instance, an operating system helps applications display information on the screen, and tells applications where the user clicked the mouse. Computers can often run several different operating systems; Intel-based PCs can run Windows 3.1, Windows 95, or Windows NT, for instance, while Power Macintosh hardware could only run the Mac OS. Now users of either hardware platform have an additional choice: the BeOS. The BeOS is also particularly well-suited to digital media creation.

What are the main features of the BeOS?

For an in-depth look at the features of the BeOS, see the Products section of the web site. Here's a brief summary of the features:

  • A True Preemptive Multitasking, Pervasively Multithreaded Operating System. The BeOS is a heavily threaded system, and the application model is designed to divide an application into multiple threads even if the programmer doesn't explicitly do so. This increases the efficiency and performance of applications and of low-level OS operations, allowing developers to structure their applications for simplicity and performance without worrying about arbitrary architectural limits.

  • Symmetric Multiprocessing. The most efficient way to take advantage of multiple processors is to allow threads to move from one processor to another depending on system load -- a process called symmetric multiprocessing. The result is significantly greater parallelism on multiprocessor systems, and significantly higher overall performance throughout.

  • An Object-Oriented Design. The BeOS application programming interface (API) is object-oriented, rather than the procedural API common in other mainstream OS architectures. The result is faster time to market for new applications, and faster revisions to existing applications over time.

  • A Design for Real-Time Media and Communications. The architecture of the BeOS is optimized for dealing with real-time, high-bandwidth data types such as audio and video, and for handling a wide array of communications capabilities.

  • Simplicity. Throughout the BeOS, there has been a heavy emphasis on delivering simple, elegant solutions to programming problems. The attention to simplicity within the BeOS stems from an underlying belief that software programmers are most effective and efficient when each one can understand the entire OS model.

What machines does the BeOS run on?

The BeOS Release 3 makes the BeOS available on both Intel-based hardware (Pentium and up) and PowerPC-based hardware (603 and 604 PCI-based systems).

Initial support for the extremely wide range of hardware available in the Intel architecture market is limited. While we will expand our hardware support in future releases, before buying, make sure you have supported hardware, by visiting the BeOS Ready Systems list.

Where can I get the BeOS?

In addition to reaching out to a new hardware platform, this release incorporates many new features, bug fixes, and design enhancements. To get BeOS Release 3, for either hardware platform, see the BeOS Now! page.

Where can I learn more?

For more Q & A style information, check the FAQ area of the Support section; all sorts of questions are answered there. We definitely try to put all of the information we possibly can onto the web site, and we encourage you to spend some time browsing the entire site -- there are several hundred pages to explore!

The site is organized into several main sections:

For more information about Be or the BeOS, we invite you to delve into our web site. If have specific questions about Be and can't find the answers in the general areas of the site, check the Support section -- it really does have answers to the vast majority of the questions we've received over the years. If the Support section doesn't have what you're looking for, please e-mail us; we'd be happy to answer your questions.

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