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Comdex coverage by CNN and

Be pushes Windows alternative

November 19, 1998
Web posted at: 7:41 PM ET

by Torsten Busse

(IDG) -- LAS VEGAS -- Be Inc., maker of the BeOS multimedia operating system, is convinced that there is room for alternatives to Windows. And in increasing numbers, other software and hardware vendors, crucial to any operating system developer, agree with the tiny Silicon Valley company.

Most notable among the Be-believers is chip giant Intel, which along with four venture capital firms, this week agreed to invest $25 million in Be. The company will spend the new funds to step up its marketing and engineering efforts.

Multimedia muscle on standard PCs

Interested in promoting its processors, Intel believes that BeOS is a good way to expose and advance the multimedia processing capabilities of its Pentium II platform.

"It's the combination of the Intel hardware and the BeOS that will attract the independent software developers," said Patrick Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of Intel's business products, speaking on Thursday at a Be press conference held here at Comdex.
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"You can see us support Be now and in the future," Gelsinger said, adding that although it is possible for Intel to advance the Pentium's multimedia capabilities in a number of ways, to really shine the processor still requires an advanced media OS.

"We want to get a high-performance media-rich operating system to market and make the capabilities of our platform visible to the multimedia market," Gelsinger said.

That is a piece of cake for Be. In an impressive demo, the company showed how a dual Pentium-based PC running the BeOS can simultaneously run multiple, processing power-intensive applications -- such as video capture and editing, 3D graphics rendering, audio processing, and Web surfing software -- without any glitch or interruption.

Coexisting with Windows

The BeOS is not intended to directly compete with Windows, but rather to coexist with it under a dual boot-up and dual operating systems strategy.

To that end Hitachi last week agreed to become the first major global PC maker that will preinstall the Japanese version of the BeOS R4.0J alongside with Windows 98 on three of its new multi-boot environment desktop Flora Prius 330J PCs, due to ship in December in Japan.

Be executives expect to soon announce similar bundling agreements with two of the top five U.S. PC manufacturers.

Will Windows 2000 let it be?

While several video and audio editing software developers here this week threw their support behind Be, pledging to offer their wares on the BeOS, Microsoft is not sitting still. It is no secret that Microsoft is working hard to bolster the multimedia functions of its Windows family.

Asked how large the window of opportunity for Be is until Microsoft delivers better video playback and editing capabilities with Windows, Be cofounder Jean-Louis Gassee smiled.

"You cannot do good audio and video editing on Windows," Gassee said.

Gassee, now Be's chair and chief executive officer, quipped that the word in the market is that the Microsoft's Windows NT 5.0 -- now called Windows 2000--will consist of millions of lines of code.

"I like every single one of [those lines of code]," Gassee said, adding that there is ample room for an OS that addresses specific user needs such as real-time manipulation of high-bandwidth digital media.

With digital video equipment expected to take the market by storm, the BeOS will find its buyers.

"The more digital video and 1394 FireWire products out there the better off we are," Gassee said, referring to the new high-speed standard for connecting peripherals.

Among the software developers announcing support for the BeOS here this week are Cycore Computers-Cykar, maker of the Cult3D Animation real time 3D rendering engine; MGI Software, a developer of the VideoWave editing software; BeatWare, which offers its Mail-It e-mail application for the BeOS; and Steinberg Software and Hardware, maker of professional audio production tools.

Version 4.0 of the BeOS, shown here in public for the first time, also supports the PowerPC architecture. Due out the first week of December, BeOS 4.0 offers support for SCSI devices, 16-bit and 32-bit file allocation table systems, color printers, and video formats such as QuickTime and AVI.

The retail price of the CD-ROM, which contains both the Intel and PowerPC versions of the BeOS, is $100. However, when purchased online at Be's it costs $70.

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