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BeOS goes mobile, announces Gassée (we think)

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Be founder Jean-Louis Gassée - the self-styled "French farmer abducted by aliens and raised by VCs in Silicon Valley" - seems to have lost none of his Cantona-like talent for gnomic epigrams.

Over at CNBC.com, Gassée has been expounding on Internet appliances and announced that a mobile BeIA unit will be launched in the Fall. To date, most BeIA design wins have been for tabletop devices, with Qubit's WebTablet coming losest to fitting the mobile description. That'll use IEEE 802-based wireless LAN with a limited range.

Of the others, Compaq's is the best known, and even scooped up a Business Week design award recently despite not having yet been released. Kosyn is expected to announce one of its own in a fortnight, and FIC and Solopoint have announced BeIA appliances.

"During a pregnancy, time goes by in a certain way," says Gassée. "But then after the baby is born you wonder how it could be graduating college so soon."

He says the mobile appliance will debut "shortly after Labor Day".

Gassée doesn't exactly observe a monkish silence: his thoughts are a regular feature in Be's fortnightly newsletter, where recently he has been giving much time over to the Microsoft antitrust action. But he artfully sidestepped a CNBC question on how actively Be's lawyers were pursuing this.

The Be chief is punting the platform in the face of competition from Linux and stalwart embedded OSes like QNX on cost grounds, as well as convenience. He says that Java, Flash and MP3 licenses all need to be paid with the "free" OS.

Elsewhere he says that the company is looking at new financing in the summer. At Be's current burn rate its cash reserves will be exhausted in six quarters.

But he has little to add on the subject of Be popping up in an entertainment devices, such as consoles. Recent rumours of a collaboration with Sony appear to be largely wishful thinking, although such a device looks pretty feasible.

Early benchmarks of BeOS' new OpenGL implementation caused quite a stir amongst gamers this week when a work-in-progress cut of the drivers outperformed Windows by between 30 and 300 per cent on equivalent hardware. That's since been contested, and the claims rebuffed, but either way it gives Be something to exploit. And the X-Box is still well over a year away... ®

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