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An Ex-Be Engineer's Perspective on Be

By 11223 in MLP
Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 11:09:15 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

It's time again to talk about BeOS, the technologically cool OS by the company that's been going out of business for nine years now. BeNews is running an interview with an ex-Be engineer who discusses the future and past of Be, and the effect of the focus shift on Be. It's always interesting to study OS's that, for no technological reason, simply just don't seem to make it.

Note: I reposted this based upon the advice of two helpful replies to my previous (rejected) submission.


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How is BeOS doing?
o BeOS is alive and kicking, better than Linux! 4%
o BeOS is alive and kicking, like OS/2 and Amiga! 75%
o BeOS is going to be saved by BeIA. 4%
o BeOS is dying, and will be gone in 6 months. 4%
o BeOS is dead. It's been dead ever since R3. 3%
o BeOS is dead. It was killed by Free BeOS. 6%

Votes: 61
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An Ex-Be Engineer's Perspective on Be | 12 comments (3 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
Not just a good inside look at BeOS... (1.71 / 7) (#3)
by kmself on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 09:36:21 PM EST

The interview provides good insights on how to push / evangelize a new technology:

Now more precisely on your question. I don't want to over-simplify ... but... you have two kinds of companies an evangelist have to deal with :
  • Warriors (they survived or even stronger : they master the world...)
  • Geeks (most of them will die but all the warriors used to be geeks one day)

You talk "business" to the first ones and "enthousiasm" to the second ones.

The big mistake is to think that you have to give money to the first ones and condescendant friendship to the second ones. The first ones are dominants and want to minimize the risk. The second ones are unconscious and minimize the effort they have to provide. Giving the first ones money is the worst thing you can do. They'll despise you and you'll get what you paid for: a port of an application or of a driver that they'll keep in the desk when you're in bad shape and need them to publish it. You are a real evangelist if you give as much money as you can to the promising starter who under-evaluated his investment and if you talk enthousiasm to the warrior.

Now more direct statements:

  • Developper support,
  • Developper support,
  • Developper support,
  • Developper support,
  • Developper support,

And I'm not talking about responding mails on lists or spending money on worldwide trips. Supporting developers means choosing your champions. Go visit them. Send your best engineers in their field to spend 2 months with them and work with them. This will make 9 months projects last 3 months. Of course you can't do that with all your engineers and with everyone. You have to select.

Last thing about the user base ... You can't imagine how many companies told me their customers had no demand for a port on BeOS ... That's what will kill democracy. People don't vote. To few people send mails (not emails)... real mails, the ones that a boss can't ignore. If you want BeOS, shout it on the web, send letters. Go and demonstrate at the headquarters of your beloved companies ! We want a BeOS port !

Well said.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.

Open Source is BIG now... (4.50 / 2) (#9)
by itsbruce on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 12:56:55 PM EST

I'd say this article (and the failure of BeOS that it refers to) proves the power of Open Source development. These days, you have to be a Microsoft or a Sun if you want to compete with Open Source - anything smaller can't hack it.

The interviewee repeatedly states that Be failed to get developers on side. They didn't give out enough information, didn't proselytise, didn't document their API's - why should any developer get involved when they can develop for Linux or *BSD and have all the information they want, have all the control they want and (most importanly) feel involved.

That feeling of involvement is very important. Linux developers and Linux users feel a sense of ownership which makes them want to contribute and stay a part of it all. I don't get any sense of that from the Be community. There was a QNX story on /. a while back and one contributor linked to a review and discussion on a Be news site. In amongst the OS wars and other juvenilia I sensed a real frustration on the part of the Be users - they were totally dependent on Be the company, waiting to see what they did next.

I think the interview shows that this is why Be has failed - without the critical mass of developers that Open Source attracts, they just can't compete. It's interesting to see the interviewee say that lack of interest put back release of new device drivers and new apps, since that has historically been the gripe about Linux. But, according to this article, Opera for BeOS won't arrive till 2001 at the earliest while Opera for Linux is practically finished.

Not only has BeOS failed as a popular desktop OS but it's struggling to survive in the niche of embedded/internet devices - against strong competition from Linux once again, despite the technical superiority that Be undoubtedly has as a RTOS.

In the future it's going to be very difficult to launch any new OS that isn't Open Source - the attractions for developers and the speed of Open Source development mean that only the already entrenched big boys can compete.


It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
AmiBeOS/2 users, prepare for the hard truth. (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 03:28:38 PM EST

There is no Santa Claus. There is no Easter Bunny. Tinkerbell will not come back to life if you clap hard enough. And your OS, that you love so much, is dead. It is time to acknowledge and move on.

Without tons of software, and I mean NATIVE software, not just crude ports, no platform will prosper. And to get those, you need the hearts of developers.

Rudi got it right that developers are the most important thing. OS/2 development was nigh-impossible for independant developers (as I found out the hard way), and the main complaint I heard about Be was that it was difficult to design for. The #1 force driving Microsoft's OS-substitutes is MSDN and Visual *. It's dead easy to develop for them, so everyone does. Linux and FreeBSD already have the tools and information really hardcore developers want, and are finally getting decent IDEs for the less-hardcore (after 30, your brain turns to tapioca and you need a point-and-drool programming interface to survive, or you'll have to go into management. Yeah, I didn't believe it would happen to me, either).

I'm currently using VisualAge for Java in Linux instead of my usual bash+make+vim+jikes+jdk, and speed and memory issues aside, it's incredibly powerful, and IBM's actually committed to supporting Linux developers. The Java metaplatform has largely succeeded, IMO, not because of the hype, nor even because it's a good technology (it is, but we just got lucky, and had a lot of money thrown at the problem to make better JITs), but because it's incredibly well-documented. There are ten thousand Java programming books, from beginner to obscure expert deep magic stuff. When I was programming for OS/2, there were a half-dozen books on it, and then the $$$ pricey developer connection from IBM. And that was it. Look at the number of Mac books - not many, but more than that, and there are a few different dev env's for it.

His repeated refrain of "pray for ..." is just the death rattle. When you hear that kind of thing, run for the hills and learn a new OS.

-- Mark Hughes
An Ex-Be Engineer's Perspective on Be | 12 comments (3 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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