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BeOS 4.0 set for December release

First mainstream release targets Intel-based workstation users.

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Having largely failed to convert Mac users to its OS, Be is now targetting the Wintel world with its next major BeOS release, version 4.0. The new version, due to ship early in December, also marks the first iteration of the OS that's ready for widespread usage, the company said. Previous releases were essentially oriented toward software developers and businesses keen to evaluate the OS' capabilities. BeOS 4.0 supports a wide range of hardware, including dual-processor Intel-based boxes, plus plug-and-play peripherals and add-ins. The OS will now support SCSI devices, colour printers and boasts compatibility with AVI and QuickTime video formats. USB support, however, has been relegated to a later upgrade due in the first quarter of 1999. As you can see from the OS' hardware support, Be is clearly aiming at the emerging Intel-based workstation business. The theory runs something like this: as multimedia begins to be incorporated into more applications, more users will want to do multimedia development work, and here Be reckons it can offer better performance at a lower cost that Windows. BeOS is an impressive system, thanks to its ground-up development, object-oriented design and database-based file system. However, there are some major rocks on its road to success. As an alternative OS, BeOS immediately runs up against Linux and all the support it has from users and, at least as far as verbal commitments go, some big software players. But Be isn't trying to beat Windows head on -- which is largely what Linux seems to be about -- so that's not too big an issue. Of greater concern is just who wants a separate OS for multimedia work? Arguably, the only ones who do are already using one. It's called Macintosh. True, BeOS' dual boot facility allows users to run Windows for mainstream stuff and BeOS for multimedia work, but how many people really want to be constantly restarting their machines everytime they want to swap apps? Speaking of apps, even Be admits there are only around 70 "really serious" developers working with its software. And while its not hard to imagine multimedia software specialists like Adobe and Macromedia knocking up BeOS apps in their labs, they're unlikely to release anything until they're sure there's a good base of users -- and that's what BeOS 4.0 really has to deliver. But since, generally speaking, the only users keen on installing completely new operating systems are hobbyists, we're back up against Linux. Perhaps Be's one shot at success was trying to get Apple to buy it. It failed then, and it's hard to see it succeeding now. ® Click for more stories Click for story index

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