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Be getting ready to open source BeOS?

It's got the domain names ready

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Is Be planning to release its BeOS operating system to the open source community? It's something it has discussed in the past but never come down on the issue one way or the other.

Until recently, perhaps. Be has registered the domain name openbeos.com (and .org and .net) - and thanks to Register reader Jim for alerting us to the fact.

Now to be fair, Be registered the domains way back last September, so it looks like the registrations are more a preparatory move than a statement of intent, but it certainly suggests that the company is coming round to that way of thinking.

Be now gives away BeOS to anyone willing to download it, and has done since early 2000, not long after the company announced it would be focusing its efforts on the information appliance biz - such as it is - with its BeIA client OS and back-end server platform.

At the time, Be's CEO, the flamboyant Jean-Louis Gassée, said: "[Whether to go open source or not] is a question that many have asked. We plan to answer it in due course."

So far, that question hasn't been answered, until now, perhaps? Thought don't forget all those rumours a few years back about Red Hat being about to buy Be...

Still, it will be interesting to see if Be does release its OS to the open source world. Certainly the OS itself is no longer a commercial product, and as such may as well be released in source code form. You might think that would render BeIA a non-commercial platform, but Be might decide that giving away the client - a la Linux - might improve its chances of selling the back-end stuff.

BeIA's commercial success is founded on the viability of the Net appliance market, and right now that just isn't happening. The collapse in the PC market doesn't appear to be being balanced by a greater interest in cheaper Net access devices, though Sony, for one, hopes it will when it launches the BeIA-based eVilla appliance sometime this year.

Let's stick with Sony and speculate a little. How about this for a scenario? Sony buys Be, to use BeIA in future broadband appliance technology (PlayStation 3? Cell-based systems?) and gives away the BeOS to encourage broader industry support, following the Linux model, or simply because it's only interested in the back-end technology. Or maybe Be simply makes it a condition of the acquisition that all its hard work is handed over to fellow coders.

As we say, just a little speculation. But stranger things have happened at sea... ®

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