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Be's Stinger OS selected for Nat Semi WebPad

Be breaks into Internet appliance biz for real -- sort of

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Alternative OS developer Be's scheme to break into the embedded market took a major step forward today, when its cut-down version of the BeOS, codenamed Stinger, was selected by National Semiconductor as the OS component of its WebPad Internet appliance reference design. Both companies were keen to stress that their partnership isn't a formal one -- so any OEM that licenses WebPad will have to license Stinger separately -- and it's not clear whether Stinger is being used in all WebPad-based reference platforms or simply for those aimed at multimedia applications. Still, it's good news for Be, which has come to see the embedded market, and the Internet appliance arena in particular, as the place where it can really make its mark. Or rather make money, something the company to date has consistently failed to do, despite regular rises in turnover. Be's attempts to drive into first the Mac and then the Intel markets as an alternative OS hasn't been met with widespread success, not least because it arrived just as Linux was appearing out of nowhere to become the challenger to Windows. Of course, the problem for Be is that all the Linux distributors have exactly the same interest in the embedded market as it does, so it's not in for an easy ride. However, the BeOS has one key advantage over Linux: powerful multimedia support, born out of the company's Apple heritage. With digital content provision being touted as one way the Net will break through into the consumer electronics mainstream, Be is in a good position to cash in here. Getting in on Nat Semi's WebPad project will give Be a chance to demonstrate Stinger running as part of a real product. It's also significant in that WebPad is also a wireless device, so it gives Be a way into a market that's even more important than digital content provision: mobile Net access. WebPad is an old Cyrix project, one that Nat Semi retained when it sold the chip developer off to Via. WebPad ties into a base station unit through a wireless link -- the base station connects to the Net via a modem or LAN. It's based on Nat Semi's x86-compatible Geode CPU. ®

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