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Be axes 25 per cent of staff

Cash running out rapidly, company warns

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Following weekend reports that Be is about to run out of cash, the company yesterday announced it was trimming its already small headcount by cutting "approximately" 27 jobs - around one quarter of its worldwide workforce.

The axe will fall primarily on the necks of sales, marketing and admin staffers, but Be admitted that some engineers are off too, all of them working on non-core products.

The redundancies come just days after Be warned its ongoing viability as business has been called into question by its continued losses and accumulated deficit - which on 31 December 200 had reached $94.4 million.

Cash reserves, which had dwindled to $14 million by the end of last year, and would "not be sufficient to meet operating and capital requirements at our currently anticipated level of operations beyond the end of the second quarter of 2001."

To continue trading, the company said, it will need to scale back its operations, possibly through job cuts.

Be's current burn rate with its 104 staff prior to yesterday's cuts was around $5m per quarter, of which 40 per cent was R&D. The job cuts ought to see Be continue intact through to the Fall.

But the news, together with Be's registration of openbeos domains, will add strength to suggestions that Be will hand its desktop OS to world+dog under some kind of software libre license, perhaps to coincide with a farewell BeOS release that includes the long-awaited new networking stack BONE, and GL support.

BeOS itself has been mothballed since Be's strategic shift to making internet appliances and multimedia systems, although Be has insisted it continued to play a key part as the 'development platform' for BeIA OEMs. The OS has fallen behind in support for ATA-100 and SCSI 160 disks, for example, and 3D drivers: gaps that could rapidly be filled using free software.

Last week's SEC filing hinted that a more focused, dedicated software kit would be offered to OEMs as a development platform.

Be was formed in 1990 from ex-Apple staffers to create a new, multi-processing computer platform. The hardware business soon proved unprofitable and - like NeXT before it - Be switched tactics to focus on its OS product. Unlike NeXT, Be was unable to persuade Apple to buy it up. Last year, Be decided to focus on the then much-hyped information appliance market. As yet, no product based on its software has shipped, though Sony's eVilla appliance is expected to ship in May.

Whatever money Be has so far made out of the Sony deal, it's clearly not enough to ensure the company's survival. ®

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