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Be signals shift to Internet appliance role for BeOS

Nice idea, but is the BeOS up to beating Linux and Java at their own game?

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Alternative OS merchant Be today tipped its hand on the latest strategy to win support for the BeOS. In a company announcement flagging the appointment of three senior executives, we find one, the irresistibly named Lamarr Potts, has become Be's VP of internet appliances. Potts' brief is to get the BeOS into all those plug and play email servers, Web servers and the like churned out by Team Internet (as Apexx will soon be renamed) and Cobalt. Now, this isn't as daft as it might sound. The BeOS is well-suited to real time video and audio processing. It's also highly object-oriented making it easy for developers to strip out the unnecessary PC-oriented stuff to focus on what's required by an embedded system. It even comes with its own Web server. These features make the BeOS well-suited to embedded Internet applications too, and it's not hard to see it appealing to developers of, say, set-top boxes. We're not sure about Be's claim that its OS provides "a rich user experience for non-PC devices", but otherwise it's not a bad idea. Certainly, Be's had little success in persuading mainstream PC vendors to offer the BeOS either alongside or as an alternative to Windows (see MS licences block Be's bid for PC market). CEO Jean-Louis Gassee's offer to PC OEMs that they can have the BeOS for nothing if they install it in a dual-boot configuration failed to find any takers, largely thanks to Microsoft's restrictive OEM licence. The upcoming Release 4.1 adds some new device drivers, but the BeOS' big problem in the PC space is its lack of compatibility with users' add-in cards and peripherals. Incidentally, Potts' newly appointed colleague, Frank Boosman, has been charged with finding more PC partners, particularly, says Be, in the Japanese market where Windows' dominance is lower than it is elsewhere. All this makes a new emphasis on alternative platforms a sensible move for Be. The only snag is that Linux is well ahead of the game on Internet appliances while Java rules the set-top box roost, and both are probably more attractive than the BeOS -- they're a darn sight cheaper for a start. Still, Be has to make the attempt, and it deserves some credit for trying, even if it ultimately fails. ®

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