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Be bites the dust

By aphrael in News
Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:07:14 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

Be, the makers of the BeBox and BeOs, has thrown in the towel: all of its intellectual property and technology assets are being sold to Palm, and the company will then wind down its operations.

The news is a little bit surprising, although Be's financial prospects have always looked cloudy. The sad thing is that the entire company is selling for as little as $11 million; a couple of years ago, Apple offered them $125 million.


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Be bites the dust | 34 comments (30 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
This truly saddens me. (3.60 / 5) (#3)
by Faulty Dreamer on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 02:46:59 PM EST

BeOS was probably the coolest concept in operating system a couple of years back. I used it exculively on my desktop system for a period of about six months and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, I eventually got a gig as a sys admin and needed to sharpen up my *nix skills so went back to *BSD and Linux.

The thing is, out of all the "alternative" OSes that were available for the PC desktop/laptop, the one that made the most sense to me was BeOS. When Be Inc decided that they were not going to put much more effort into producing BeOS I was distraught. It is an incredible OS. I think that may have been a mistake. Yes, they still developed it SOME, but they were headed more into embedded devices and alienated a few of their more staunch supporters.

It's sad to see it go down, but perhaps in a few years we will see a Palm device with a BeOS interface. I honestly thought that Be had the right combination of a fully graphical environment with optional terminal capabilities to make a dent with technical types, but it just never seemed to pan out. Sad, sad, sad.

So long Be. You may not be missed by many, but those that remember will miss you dearly.

Faulty Dreams - Barking at the moon 24/7...

If you think I'm an asshole, it's only because you haven't realized what a fucking idiot I am. - Faulty Dreamer

And benews.com too... (2.25 / 4) (#5)
by teutonic myth on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 03:41:27 PM EST

Cool tech, lame management.
I doubt we'll ever see a new BeOS on the desktop again.

Good-bye Aunt Be (3.00 / 4) (#7)
by John Milton on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:01:02 PM EST

Beos was good. It made my computers crappy internal Ati card seem like a Geforce. I don't think I really realised how slow Windows was until I tried Be. Unfortunately for them, no one buys a platform. People don't care about the OS. No one goes to the theater to see the rigging. It's the actors that they've come to see. Oh sure, people notice when a big peice of equipment falls down during a scene, but that's the only time they'll care about the technology that makes everything run.

No OS is going to make it without either a strong developer community or backwards compatability with a mainstream platform. Be could have had the first, but I hear they ticked off their developers at every step. As for the second, if they had been smart they would have liscensed Executor code from ARDI. Then Be would have had some backwards compatability with Mac apps. Maybe then, they would have won some of the Applites to their side.

Oh well, I guess I'll keep my copy of R4.5. It may be a valuable software antique someday.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Be's Greatest Mistakes... (3.62 / 8) (#8)
by jd on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:17:55 PM EST

(And there are a LOT of them...)

  • Switching -entirely- to the i386 platform, alienating existing customers
  • Keeping BeOS =very= expensive
  • Trying to "acquire" GPLed drivers from Linux, and close-source the port
  • Discouraging any serious development of drivers or packages
  • Restricting itself to a sub-niche market, to "avoid" Microsoft
  • A disasterous IPO, which destroyed their credibility with investors (their share price actually FELL after IPO, about the only tech stock to do so.)
  • Extremely poor promotion, even poorer demo disks, and absolutely no advertising worth a damn

Given all that, it's amazing they were able to get a product out at all. What's even more amazing is that the product they DID get out was bloody good! BeOS' scheduler was (and is) one of the best out there. The architecture is superb. The GUI is clean (though maybe the default colours could have been better). As OS' go, BeOS was untouchable.

Sadly, the company wasn't. If BeOS had been sold for $20, rather than $100+, and had been pushed to the hilt, they'd still be in business today. In fact, I suspect they would have bought out Palm and Apple, by now.

What'll happen, of course, is that the little that Be HAS given out will be pulled, BeOS will be shredded, and some of the more sellable features will be bastardized and rammed into PalmOS.

What -could- have been a great system was wrecked. Be snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and smashed their own creation on the rocks, out of greed, stupidity and blindness.

Oh well, it's happened before and'll happen again. Good inventors don't make good managers.

Greatest mistakes? (4.80 / 5) (#12)
by svanegmond on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 10:24:07 PM EST

Some of the things you cited as mistakes were either responses to shifts in the industry they had nearly no say in, or are incorrect. Some background: I've been using the BeOS since 1996, and developing for it (for 2.5 years salaried) since 1997. I'm typing this in the BeOS right now, although my Debian KDE time has been increasing lately...
Switching to x86 from ppc
This brought a lot more users to the OS, and alienated absolutely no developers of note. Be made genuine efforts (and followed through on them -- imagine that) to support PPC users all the way up to, and including, their latest OS release.
Keeping the OS very expensive
I haven't seen it on sale for more than USD$100. It's been between $49.95 and $79.95 for quite a while, and of course there has been a free version available for download which only removes royalty-bearing technologies (mp3 encoding, Real Audio, and the like) ever since R5 shipped.
GPLed drivers
This was a sincere mistake, which Be acknowledged, fixed, and even contributed to the FSF by way of apology.
Discouraging driver development
Restricting itself to a niche market to avoid MS
MS has squished or bought every single last one of its competitors since inception, with the sole exceptions of AOL and Linux. Avoiding direct competition was a particularly wise move.

The markets they chose were, ultimately, either poorly chosen (in hindsight) or too early before their time (IAs).

Not to be too much of a negativist, I think your point regarding promotion is well-made. Their marketing post-IPO was pretty poor. Pre-IPO, their developer evangelism was amazing in its depth. I think the credit for that goes to Erich Ringewald (from MS -- odd, that).

I'm not sure how the IPO failure was their fault...

All this said, I think the company will remain interesting to watch in the hands of Palm. I'm also curious what they're going to do with $15M (Palm's 11m and their $5m in cash).
-- Steve van Egmond http://svan.ca/
[ Parent ]

Hey! (4.33 / 3) (#18)
by aphrael on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:39:55 AM EST

MS has squished or bought every single last one of its competitors since inception,

As a developer working at an MS competitor who very nearly got squished but survived, I must protest this statement. :)

[ Parent ]

Welcome to the World of ... (3.50 / 4) (#13)
by Dwonis on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 11:32:50 PM EST


[ Parent ]
kurfrerdrundle (none / 0) (#32)
by jeffreysurname on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 02:35:32 PM EST

The BeOS was truly a novelty operating system. It worked, that is true. It *could* have done the job... but not any better than Windows, or *nix, or Mac OS, or QNX, or any other OS... Saying that it had a good architecture, or an impresive gui, is nominal. Windows has the flexibility to be extended, and to be whatever you want... (don't misunderstand me, from a programmer's, and a user's perspective, i abhore windows)... the fact that it is familiar (from a programmer's, and a user's perspective) ultimately leaves it on top. There was just simply no need for an operating system that did the *same* things as Windows. They put so much effort into it... they built the wheel for what has been the fourth time, at least, in the history of graphical environments, and they made it with the exact same same things. In a perect world, it *would* have superceeded Windows... that is, if code was portable... but then... for it to be really "portable", it would have had to have bee identical to Windows.

BeOS's failure doesn't represent a lack of potential market... it just proves what should have been fairly obvious... no one needs another Windows (I'm comparing everything to Windows, because, even thought Windows came after Mac OS, Mac OS didn't have the success of Windows -- which was entirely the effect of its hardware confinments, and the lack of competitive hardware develpoment... (regardless, Apple has done well, considering)...). The fact that every operating system looks remarkably like either DOS or Windows (or Unix and Mac OS -- whichever chicken/egg scenerio you prefer), just goes to prove how unimaginative we can be some times.

What the x86 architecture needs, is a radically different software platform... one that is extremely thin, or extremely functional. BeOS, like Windows, was neither... and so it failed.

I used the BeOS many times, for extended periods, since version 4, and found the most excitement in it's GL Teapot demo... I feel that is quite telling.

[ Parent ]
Too Bad. (3.00 / 3) (#9)
by DeadBaby on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:44:48 PM EST

It's just too bad that no one bought Be's intellectual property that was willing to either open source it or otherwise try to develop it as a viable desktop OS. Even among non-geeks the BeOS had a reputation as "Mac OS on the PC" for the few people that knew about it.

Unless Palm has some plans they've yet to disclose, it effectively kills the BeOS and I could not begin to care less about BeIA. I would have rather Be, INC just got a little money from a sugar daddy to keep their development cycle going for a few more years.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
bad link (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by A Dapper M on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:46:06 PM EST

Could somone fix the palm link in this story? It points to www.kuro5hin.org/www.palm.org (or something) :) (BTW, yes, I know this should be Editorial, but the story already posted and I wanted this to actually be seen)

"I sought only myself." - Heraclitus

Not surprising... (1.50 / 4) (#11)
by regeya on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 06:56:05 PM EST

...since one has to have a monopoly on one's niche to make proprietary software commercially viable. As it is, making a proprietary desktop OS available on the x86 platform wasn't commercially viable.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

but... (3.50 / 2) (#14)
by bdb on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:24:55 AM EST


Don't get me wrong; I never understood most users' fanaticism towards BeOS -- I ran it for a while on a spare partition when the free version came out -- but do you think this is why Palm's going after Be? Honestly, it seems like more of a move to expand Palm's market reach. I own a PalmOS device and I really don't think PalmOS would work on a "web pad," which (as I recall) was BeIA's intended target market... in fact I think a PalmOS-based "web pad" would be dreadful. At the same time, PalmOS has a simple, elegant interface which is quite efficient for small screens. Maybe it's a matter of personal preference, but the differences between the intended audiences of the two software products make me think this is probably just a sign of Palm struggling to diversify and (for real this time) become a software-focused company.

[ Parent ]
You are suprisingly ignorant.... (none / 0) (#31)
by duffbeer703 on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 01:07:33 AM EST

Commercial software cannot be viable without a monopoly?

Tell that to Oracle, IBM, Sybase and Microsoft in the RDBMS market.

How about EA and the other gaming companies?

Pull your head out of your ass and get a grip. Open source fanaticism is total bullshit.

[ Parent ]
From the release (3.20 / 5) (#15)
by Elendur on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:30:24 AM EST

"Be will be retaining certain rights, assets and liabilities in connection with the transaction. The retained rights and assets include Be's cash and cash equivalents, receivables, certain contractual rights, and rights to assert and bring certain claims and causes of action, including under antitrust laws."

Interesting that they emphasize antitrust laws. Does this mean anything, or am I reading too much into it?

Microsoft (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by John Milton on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 11:44:30 AM EST

During Microsoft's antitrust trial, they found out that Compaq had leaked technical details and possibly some BeIA source code to Microsoft. They were under NDA at the time. I found that in a comment on slashdot. Basically, this means that Be can still sue Microsoft. Who knows? They might actually get some money.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
How much money? (none / 0) (#33)
by IntlHarvester on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 02:01:19 PM EST

Now that Be's intellectual property has been valued at $11M of Palm Stock (really diddly/squat), how much do you think a lawsuit would net them? Maybe a comple million, which would be a wash after lawyers fees.

[ Parent ]
BeOS sucked... (1.60 / 5) (#16)
by ryancooley on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:33:59 AM EST

The single thing that bothers me about thus thread is that the euphoria seems to be making people act like idiots. BeOS lost out for the same reson everything else did, it sucked. The user interface was not intuitive, was not very customizeable, and was generally clunky. The underlying OS worked, but that's all that can be said for it. It really doesn't have any particular advantage over other OSes... It's not faster, more stable, easier to use. It just had no particular feature that stood it out from the rest... It was just something else than Windows.

If that's the kind of OS you want, just use QNX, it's free, small, real-time, stable, etc. It's a different GUI, but it's about the same design as BeOS, only it's free for personal use (a REAL installing version). It works, no frills, no source, no GUI-less mode, no extreme linux-ish tweaking, nothing special about it at all.

did you ever program for it? (4.66 / 3) (#17)
by aphrael on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:38:12 AM EST

from a *programming* perspective, BeOs was incredible. It was the most intuitive operating system to program for of any i've encountered. i've always been really bummed that it didn't catch on. *sigh*

[ Parent ]
programming alone does not make an OS great (4.00 / 3) (#27)
by ZorbaTHut on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 05:49:18 PM EST

Programming perspective is not what OS makers should be thinking about. There's one thing and only one thing that makes an OS great, and that's programs written for it. People don't write programs for OSes that aren't used, and people don't use OSes that don't have programs.

My first experience with BeOS was when one of the techs at my high school convinced the faculty to let them put BeOS on one of the Macs (the only one with a zipdrive). He touted its speed, its stability, how fast it booted, how quickly it ran programs, its speed . . . he started booting it up and two minutes later we decided it had obviously crashed. When we finally got it working, it was . . . useless. It had no programs. It couldn't write to the zipdrive.

Of course, some of those have probably been fixed by now, but . . . *that* was the problem with Be, and that's why it was never a great operating system. Along with most of the other open-source OSes. They don't do what users need, and they don't do it really easily.

Although I do agree about the code of BeOS being wonderful - from what I've heard of it, it was very impressive. Now, if only someone would take the same idea and figure out how to emulate Windows programs and install easily, *then* you'd have a competitive OS.

[ Parent ]
Hmmm, trolling eh? (none / 0) (#34)
by curious corn on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 09:38:43 PM EST

So, after all you confirm that BeOS died for the classical no apps <-> no consumer deadlock that M$ strives to archieve to strangle all competition. Wonder what bill (b not B... I'm trolling now ;-) ) would have said if BeOS ran smooth out of the box from Dell, Compaq, Vobis, etc...
As far as the Zip is concerned... well that issue should have been addressed by iomega right? Installing printers (I won't tell you the make I've got: no ads!) was painless and the only big grudge I had for it was the lack of multiuser-ness; I conlcude that most of the indusrty was plain scared of the tripwire M$ would have planted in her .dll if their products actively supported BeOS (oh yes, and I've been abducted by aliens ;-) )
For the rest, well... it was pure glory and I hope the UNIX monks will finally get the clue that an object-relational filesystem is a _good_idea_! Basta! I'm sick of '70s file/directoty metaphor let's get modern!


[ Parent ]
Why did it suck? (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by smallstepforman on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 07:16:01 AM EST

can you explain why BeOS sucked? Was it finely grained kernel level multithreading that sucked? 64bit journelled database like filesystem that sucked? An Object Oriented API which almost everyone said "was a pleasure to program for"? What exactly "sucked"? Did you spend more than 20 minutes with the system before determining its "suck factor"?

BeOS is 1998/99 (R4-R4.5) was the most innovative platform the computing scene ever witnessed. It was fast (Andy Groove - "I had no idea my hardware can do that"), elegant (its architecture is still unsurpassed), and its GUI has usability features other mainstream OS's still miss (right click drill through directories, intelligent use of MIME types for handling files (which *nix, Win and MacOSX still haven't got right) etc I dont want to spend too much time advocating a dying platform.

At one stage of BeOS's short history, everyone thought that Be's baby was unstoppable, only hindered by Moore's law. Then management caught the IA bug, and shifted focus (ie. it thought that it might ride the IA wave and become richer than Microsoft, a dumb idea in hindsight). My friends, at the end of 98/99 BeInc was poised to become greater than Apple and Palm (to quote a fellow K5-er). BeOS was a rocket, poised to overtake the competition but ran out of fizz. Management simply couldn't find someone to pay for the fuel.

[ Parent ]
Marketing Nonsense... (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by ryancooley on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 08:48:48 AM EST

Was it finely grained kernel level multithreading that sucked?
No, it worked fine, but no better than any other Unix clone out there.

64bit journelled database like filesystem that sucked?
Journaling FS is overrated unless you have a system you often power-off instantly (M$ Windows Crashes)

Did you spend more than 20 minutes with the system before determining its "suck factor"?
I used it extensively and exclusively for over a week... I gave it a very fair chance to impress me

It was fast (Andy Groove - "I had no idea my hardware can do that"), elegant (its architecture is still unsurpassed), and its GUI has usability features other mainstream OS's still miss (right click drill through directories, intelligent use of MIME types for handling files (which *nix, Win and MacOSX still haven't got right) etc

It was faster than windows, but slower than Linux in every way. Elegant is a rather vague term so I can't address that. I mentioned that GUI is one of the worst I've used, and there's a lot of competition for that spot. MIME-type handling varies from Unix desktop to desktop so your comment is misguiding. My favorite Unix desktops have never incorrectly handled a MIME type so I don't see the need for more intelligence than they already have. Perhaps you'd like to expand on your argument.

[ Parent ]

Be was supposed to be the next MacOS (none / 0) (#30)
by duffbeer703 on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 01:04:19 AM EST

It didn't happen, that was all she wrote. End of story.

Be was a product without a reason for being.

[ Parent ]
Be rules (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by topham on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 09:02:17 AM EST

Clunky? BeOS? Hardly. I will grant you that configuring it could be an issue, but it wasn't difficult. If you spent a reasonable amount of time in it you got used to where they put stuff.

Be is actually rather impresive and the GUI was quite good. Although I have a theory as to why people think it was clunky. It did not react exactly like windows. Simple as that. your mind starts expecting a certain behavious when you open windows, and move them around, click on controls, etc. Ad Be did not act like windows. (For one thing the average application loaded with a slight click of the harddrive, not a random chaotic seek for 10 seconds to find a bazillion dll's like windows does.

And believe it or not, that made the initial experience of using Be disturbing.

[ Parent ]

Not in my case (none / 0) (#28)
by ryancooley on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 08:37:09 AM EST

I was a big-time BSD/Linux user when I tried BeOS. In other words, I'd used dozens of different window managers, all that handle differently, and I must say that the BeOS desktop would rave to rate in the bottom 10.

[ Parent ]
RE: BeOS sucked... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by b0fh on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 11:04:18 AM EST

It was just something else than Windows.

Man, that are many things out there than windows. I find it hard to call BeOS "sucky" with its super-cool scheduler and multithreading. The true reason the average joes out there won't use such things (thus makin this companies go down the drain) is that their products are not "innovation(TM)", are not "Internet Ready(TM)", nor even let you "Dive in to the Internet"!!!
The most shitty business is doing OSses/apps for the desktop. Thank god I only work with servers...
"Contrary to popular belief, UNIX is user-friendly. It just happens to be selective on who it makes friendship with"
[ Parent ]
This really hurts (none / 0) (#21)
by mcherm on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 10:00:48 AM EST

I'm sorry to say, this really hurts. I lost several thousand dollars on this... having gotten in on the IPO at around $7 (it's at $0.20 now).

I really wanted them to succeed, and thought there was real possibility there, but (as usual) the market wins out over superior technology.

Wish I understood markets the way I understand technology.

Good bye Be... it was good to know you.

-- Michael Chermside

Stockholders? (none / 0) (#23)
by jkominek on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 11:39:56 AM EST

Any idea what happens to stock held by us stockholders? Are we going to get Palm, Inc stock in exchange for our BeOS stock, or does the BeOS stock merely become worthless? (Looks like it becomes worthless, since Palm didn't buy the company, just the intellectual property. :( )
- jay kominek unix is all about covering up the fact that you can't type.
Read the link. :) (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by aphrael on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:06:23 PM EST

It looks like Be, Inc, gets the stock, and will then sell it. (Note to other palm stock holders: expect a big price fall the day this happens). Presumably the company will then liquidate. Since they're only getting 11 million in stock, I would be surprised if Be's stockholders got much out of the deal. Be will file with the SEC shortly, and the action must be approved in a stockholder meeting; there's a link on the Be website to the place where the SEC filing will be available once it happens.

[ Parent ]
Rebirth, not death! (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by fury on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:13:13 PM EST

Guys, I'm surprised to see 30 posts lamenting the death of Be. Palm (a pretty good karma company as well) took over their technology to make use of it, something that wasn't going to happen when Be's burn rate drove them under.

Palm didn't spend $11 million for a toy, especially considering the financial problems they've been having themselves recently.

As we all talk about how WinCE sucks but secretly worry about its ability to play MPEGs and MP3s without extra hardware, why not think about what this extremely thin, extremely streamlined, and extremely multimedia-based OS could mean for your handheld?

I wrote up more on this yesterday. If you're interested, go ahead and check it out.

And don't mod down for the link please. It's completely relevant, and referencing rather than duplicating is a good thing, as you DBAs and OO-coders know.

Kevin Fox - fury.com

Be bites the dust | 34 comments (30 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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