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BeOS is an operating system for personal computers first developed by Be Inc. in 1990.[1] It was first written to run on BeBox hardware.

BeOS was positioned as a multimedia platform that could be used by a substantial population of desktop users and a competitor to Classic Mac OS and Microsoft Windows. It was ultimately unable to achieve a significant market share, and did not prove commercially viable for Be Inc. The company was acquired by Palm Inc. and today BeOS is mainly used and developed by a small population of enthusiasts.

The open-source operating system Haiku, a complete reimplementation of BeOS, is designed to start up where BeOS left off. Beta 1 of Haiku was released in September 2018, six years after Alpha 4.[2] Beta 2 of Haiku was released in June 2020.[3]


Initially designed to run on AT&T Hobbit-based hardware, BeOS was later modified to run on PowerPC-based processors: first Be's own systems, later Apple Inc.'s PowerPC Reference Platform and Common Hardware Reference Platform, with the hope that Apple would purchase or license BeOS as a replacement for its aging Classic Mac OS.[4] Apple CEO Gil Amelio started negotiations to buy Be Inc., but negotiations stalled when Be CEO Jean-Louis Gassée wanted $300 million;[5] Apple was unwilling to offer any more than $125 million. Apple's board of directors decided NeXTSTEP was a better choice and purchased NeXT in 1996 for $429 million, bringing back Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.[6]

Be Power Computing

Steve Kahng of Power Computing and Jean-Louis Gassée of Be with a Power Tower Pro that is running BeOS.

In 1997, Power Computing began bundling BeOS (on a CD for optional installation) with its line of PowerPC-based Macintosh clones. These systems could dual boot either the Classic Mac OS or BeOS, with a start-up screen offering the choice.[7]

Due to Apple's moves and the mounting debt of Be Inc., BeOS was soon ported to the Intel x86 platform with its R3 release in March 1998.[8] Through the late 1990s, BeOS managed to create a niche of followers, but the company failed to remain viable. Be Inc. also released a stripped-down, but free, copy of BeOS R5 known as BeOS Personal Edition (BeOS PE). BeOS PE could be started from within Microsoft Windows or Linux, and was intended to nurture consumer interest in its product and give developers something to tinker with.[9][10] Be Inc. also released a stripped-down version of BeOS for Internet Appliances (BeIA), which soon became the company's business focus in place of BeOS.[11]

In 2001 Be's copyrights were sold to Palm, Inc. for some $11 million. BeOS R5 is considered the last official version, but BeOS R5.1 "Dano", which was under development before Be's sale to Palm and included the BeOS Networking Environment (BONE) networking stack, was leaked to the public shortly after the company's demise.[12][13]

In 2002, Be Inc. sued Microsoft claiming that Hitachi had been dissuaded from selling PCs loaded with BeOS, and that Compaq had been pressured not to market an Internet appliance in partnership with Be. Be also claimed that Microsoft acted to artificially depress Be Inc.'s initial public offering (IPO).[14] The case was eventually settled out of court for $23.25 million with no admission of liability on Microsoft's part.[15]

After the split from Palm, PalmSource used parts of BeOS's multimedia framework for its failed Palm OS Cobalt product.[16] With the takeover of PalmSource, the BeOS rights now belong to Access Co.[17]

Continuation and clones[]

In the years that followed the demise of Be Inc. a handful of projects formed to recreate BeOS or key elements of the OS with the eventual goal of then continuing where Be Inc. left off. This was facilitated by Be Inc. having released some components of BeOS under a free licence. Such projects include:

  • BlueEyedOS: It uses a modified version of the Linux kernel and reimplements the BeOS API over it (BeOS applications need to be recompiled). It is freely downloadable, but sources were never published. There have been no releases since 2003.[18]
  • Cosmoe: A port of the Haiku userland over a Linux kernel. BeOS applications need to be recompiled. It is free and open source software. The last release was in 2004 and its website is no longer online.[19]
  • E/OS: short for Emulator Operating System. A Linux and FreeBSD-based operating system that aimed to run Windows, DOS, AmigaOS and BeOS applications. It is free and open source software.[20] Active development ended in July 2008.
  • Haiku: A complete reimplementation of BeOS not based on Linux. Unlike Cosmoe and BlueEyedOS, it is directly compatible with BeOS applications. It is free and open source software. The first alpha release, "Haiku R1 / Alpha 1", was released on September 14, 2009.[21] The second alpha release, "Haiku R1 / Alpha 2", was made available on May 9, 2010,[22] and the third alpha release, "Haiku R1 / Alpha 3", on June 18, 2011.[23] "Haiku R1 / Alpha 4" was released November 12, 2012.[24] As of 2020, it is the only BeOS clone still under development, with the first beta version released on September 28, 2018,[2] and the second beta version released on June 9, 2020.[3]

ZETA was a commercially available operating system based on the BeOS R5.1 codebase. Originally developed by yellowTAB, the operating system was then distributed by magnussoft. During development by yellowTAB, the company received criticism from the BeOS community for refusing to discuss its legal position with regard to the BeOS codebase (perhaps for contractual reasons). Access Co. (which bought PalmSource, until then the holder of the intellectual property associated with BeOS) has since declared that yellowTAB had no right to distribute a modified version of BeOS, and magnussoft has ceased distribution of the operating system.[25]

Version history[]

Release Date Hardware
DR1–DR5 October 3, 1995 AT&T Hobbit
DR6 (developer release) January 1996 PowerPC
DR7 April 1996
DR8 September 1996
Advanced Access Preview Release May 1997
PR1 (preview release) June 1997
PR2 October 1997
R3 March 1998 PowerPC and Intel x86
R3.1 June 1998
R3.2 July 1998
R4 November 4, 1998
R4.5 ("Genki") June 1999
R5 Personal / Pro Edition ("Maui") March 2000
R5.1 ("Dano") November 15, 2001 Intel x86



BeOS vs Windows 10 - 8 - 7 - Linux - Ubuntu - - OS X (1)

BeOS was built for digital media work and was written to take advantage of modern hardware facilities such as symmetric multiprocessing by utilizing modular I/O bandwidth, pervasive multithreading, preemptive multitasking and a 64-bit journaling file system known as the Be File System (BFS). The BeOS GUI was developed on the principles of clarity and a clean, uncluttered design.

The API was written in C++ for ease of programming. It has partial POSIX compatibility and access to a command-line interface through Bash, although internally it is not a Unix-derived operating system.

BeOS used Unicode as the default encoding in the GUI, though support for input methods such as bidirectional text input was never realized.

Many Unix applications were ported to the BeOS command-line interface.[26]

Products using BeOS[]

BeOS ready

BeOS (and now ZETA) continue to be used in media appliances, such as the Edirol DV-7 video editors from Roland Corporation, which run on top of a modified BeOS[27] and the Tunetracker Radio Automation software that used to run it on BeOS[28][29][30] and ZETA, and it was also sold as a "Station-in-a-Box" with the ZETA operating system included.[31] In 2015, Tunetracker released Haiku distribution on USB flash disk bundled with its broadcasting software.[32]

The Tascam SX-1 digital audio recorder runs a heavily modified version of BeOS that will only launch the recording interface software.[33]

iZ Technology Corporation sells the RADAR 24, RADAR V and RADAR Studio, hard disk-based, 24-track professional audio recorders based on BeOS 5,[34] although the newer RADAR 6 is not based on BeOS.

Magicbox, a manufacturer of signage and broadcast display machines, uses BeOS to power their Aavelin product line.[35]

Final Scratch, a 12-inch vinyl timecode record-driven DJ software/hardware system, was first developed on BeOS. The "ProFS" version was sold to a few dozen DJs prior to the 1.0 release, which ran on a Linux virtual partition.[36]


  1. Finley, Klint. "This OS Almost Made Apple an Entirely Different Company", Wired, 2015-05-29. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Haiku Release 1 Beta 1. (September 28, 2018).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Haiku Release 1 Beta 2 (June 9, 2020).
  4. Tom (2004-11-24). BeOS @ MaCreate.
  5. The Rise and Fall of Apple’s Gil Amelio. Cobweb Publishing, Inc..
  6. Owen W. Linzmayer (1999). Apple Confidential: The Day They Almost Decided To Put Windows NT On The Mac Instead Of OS X!.
  7. Be Newsletters, Volume 1: 1995-1996. Be Inc. (1996).
  8. Be Newsletters, Volume 3: 1998. Be Inc. (1998).
  9. Be Newsletters, Volume 5: 2000. Be Inc. (2000).
  10. BeOS/Zeta. YellowBites.
  11. Be Newsletters, Volume 5: 2000. Be Inc. (2000).
  12. Be Newsletters, Volume 5 : 2000. Be Inc (2000).
  13. Jake Daniels (23 January 2001). More Information on the BeOS Dano Version. OSNews.
  14. Andrew Orlowski (2002-02-20). Be Inc. sues Microsoft.
  15. Mark Berniker (2003-09-08). Microsoft Settles Anti-Trust Charges with Be.
  16. PalmSource Introduces Palm OS Cobalt, PalmSource press release, 10 February 2004. Archived July 21, 2012.
  17. ACCESS Completes Acquisition of PalmSource, ACCESS press release, November 14, 2005. Archived January 5, 2007.
  18. Welcome to BlueEyedOS. BlueEyedOS (26 June 2003).
  19. The Cosmoe Operating System. Cosmoe (2 June 2011).
  20. Free BeOS and BeOS Clones. The Free Country (30 November 2009).
  21. Haiku Project Announces Availability of Haiku R1/Alpha 1 (2009-09-14).
  22. Haiku Project Announces Availability of Haiku R1/Alpha 2 (2010-05-09).
  23. Haiku Release 1 Alpha 3. (June 18, 2011).
  24. Haiku Release 1 Alpha 4. (November 12, 2011).
  25. Zeta Operating System. Operating (14 October 2013).
  26. Brown, Martin C.. "BeOS: Porting UNIX Applications", Morgan Kaufmann. 
  27. EDIROL by Roland DV-7DL Series Digital Video Workstations.
  28. Hacker, Scott (21 May 2001). BeOS And Radio Automation.
  29. Vernon, Tom. "TuneTracker 2 Brings Automation to All", 4 June 2002. 
  30. "Station to station", Future plc, January 2005, pp. 68–73. 
  31. TuneTracker Radio Automation Software.
  32. Förster, Moritz (17 March 2015). Alternative Betriebssysteme: Haiku als USB-Distribution (de). iX Magazin.
  33. Professional Audio Coming to Haiku?. Haikuware (6 September 2011).
  34. iZ RADAR 24.
  35. Jay Ankeney (2006-05-01). Technology Showcase: Digital Signage Hardware. Digital Content Producer.
  36. Peter Kirn (28 April 2008). Ni Ends Legal Dispute Over Traktor Scratch; Digital Vinyl's Twisty, Turny History. Create Digital Music.

Further reading[]

External links[]


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