Be to launch info appliance OS today

BeIA to replace BeOS as flagship product

Alternative OS vendor Be will launch its BeOS-derived internet appliance OS today, less than a month after the company announced it was shifting its focus away from the mainstream OS market and on to such embedded applications. First announced last November under the codename Stinger, the final release will be officially dubbed BeIA, according to Reuters. The cut-down Intel-based OS will bundle Opera Software's Web browser, and support RealNetworks' streaming media formats plus all the usual rich media browser plug-ins. It will also provide real-time features such as an 'instant boot' facility allowing IA devices to be switched on and used immediately just like other consumer electronics kit. The Reuters report suggests Be will also announce a deal with Hitachi -- a long-time BeOS supporter -- in which the Japanese giant's Digital Media Group will use BeIA for a family of internet access devices the first of which should ship before July. Be already has similar deals with Compaq and National Semiconductor, though in both those cases the companies are also supporting Linux, so Be's committed customer base is looking a tad thin. That can change, but much will depend on the Linux world's ability to bring Be's level of multimedia support to embedded versions of the open source OS, such as Lineo's Embeddix. Here at least BeIA has a lead. According to Reuters, IDC reckons (in a rather bandwagon-leaping way) that the worldwide market for information appliances will hit $17.8 billion in 2004, with shipments having surpassed those of PCs by 2002. That's good news for Be, even if it takes just a small share of the market -- assuming of course the market gets that big, based as it appears to be on the fact that the world+dog is saying they're going to make information appliances, even though there's no established user demand out there. We think there will be a large market for information appliances, but since they'll all be Sony PlayStation 2s and Nintendo Dolphins, that's not much consolation for Be, we fear. ®

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