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Intel to buy into Be

Meanwhile, Be announces new version of OS, persuades Hitachi to ship PCs with it

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As Be officially announced the latest version of its multimedia OS and detailed Hitachi's decision to use it in its PCs, it emerged that Intel will next week announce it is taking a stake in the company. BeOS 4 is the first version of the operating system targetted at mainstream users as opposed to developers, the principal audience for previous releases. As revealed here before (see BeOS 4.0 set for December release, the new version is aimed at graphics and multimedia users working on or planning to shift to Wintel from the Mac. Essentially, the OS is being pushed as a way of gaining a Mac-like experience on a Windows machine. Be says it has improved the compatibility between BeOS and Windows -- allowing the former to access the latter's files, harmonising keyboard shortcuts between the two, and adding support for Windows networking, for example -- believes users will want to use both OSes. It's a sensible approach, not least given the paucity of native BeOS apps will force anyone who uses it to regularly reboot under Windows and run software not available in Be versions. Which is why Hitachi's bizarrely named Flora Prius PC is a dual-boot system offering Windows 98 and BeOS 4. Of course, how many users will ultimately get fed up of swapping over to Be just to run a couple of multimedia apps will remain to be seen, so for all Be's talk of supplementary operating systems it still needs to encourage development of applications. And unless they see a significant user base, that isn't going to happen. All of which makes you wonder what Intel sees in the company. Taking a stake in Red Hat to get a handle on Linux seemed reasonable since Linux is a hugely popular, albeit among the more technologically enthusiastic, OS, whereas Be is still stuggling to move out of the MacOS' shadow. Linux is also gaining plenty of support from big league hardware and software vendors. Be, on the other hand, isn't. Clearly, Intel wants to be seen to be supporting the widest range of operating systems that run on its hardware. It too has often been seen to be in Apple's shadow when it comes to multimedia and graphics hardware, even if that's purely a matter of prejudice. Encouraging an Intel-based multimedia OS might help to counter that. ®

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