BeOS Desktop.png
BeOS R4.5
Company / developer Be Inc.
OS family BeOS
Working state Discontinued/Historic
Source model Closed source
Latest stable release R5.0.3 [+/−]
Latest unstable release PR2  (October 1997) [+/−]
Supported platforms IA-32, PowerPC
Kernel type Modular Hybrid kernel
License Proprietary
Official website

BeOS is an operating system for personal computers which began development by Be Inc. in 1991. It was first written to run on BeBox hardware. BeOS was optimized 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 custom 64-bit journaling file system known as BFS. The BeOS GUI was developed on the principles of clarity and a clean, uncluttered design. It used Unicode as the default encoding in the GUI, yet support for input methods, such as bidirectional input was never realized. 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 was positioned as a multimedia platform which could be used by a substantial population of desktop users and a competitor to Mac OS and Microsoft Windows. However, it was ultimately unable to achieve a significant market share and proved commercially unviable 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 OS Haiku is designed to start up where BeOS left off. Alpha 3 of Haiku was released in June 2011.[1]



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 then aging Mac OS.[2] Apple CEO Gil Amelio started negotiations to buy Be Inc., but negotiations stalled when Be CEO Jean-Louis Gassée wanted $200 million; 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.[3]

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 Mac OS or BeOS, with a start-up screen offering the choice.

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. Through the late 1990s, BeOS managed to create a niche of followers, but the company failed to remain viable. As a last-ditch effort to increase interest in the failing operating system, Be Inc. 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.

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. BeOS PE and BeIA proved to be too little too late, and 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.

In 2002, Be Inc. sued[4] 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). The case was eventually settled out of court[5] for $23.25 million with no admission of liability on Microsoft's part.

After the split from Palm, PalmSource used parts of BeOS's multimedia framework for its failed Palm OS Cobalt product.[6] With the takeover of PalmSource, the BeOS rights now belong to Access Co.


Despite the end of Be Inc., BeOS has devoted followers. The BeOS community still develops free software and has even released patches, drivers and various updates to BeOS. The main source of BeOS-related software can be found at BeBits.[7]

The BeOS user interface was notable at the time for being almost completely unthemeable, even with third party hacks. The BeOS theme of yellow, changing length tabs on the top of windows, and relatively plain grey interface widgets was enforced. This UI remained relatively unchanged from 1995, but had been completely overhauled by the time of the leaked Dano release. An Easter egg in the OS allowed changing the title bar look-and-feel to a few others (Mac OS 8, Amiga Workbench, and Windows 98 appearances) and in Dano, this had been extended to be a feature allowing changing of the title bar and scroll bars. No other interface widgets could be changed. There is a pre-Dano third party program WindowShade that allows the colors of the title bar and window frame to be changed, but the appearance remained the same.

The plain BeOS R5 GUI is commonly cloned, for example with themes for the GNOME or KDE desktop environment.

Version history

Release Date Hardware
DR1–DR5 October 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 PE/Pro ("Maui") March 2000
R5.1 ("Dano") November 2001 Intel x86

Projects to recreate BeOS

BeOS was well respected by a small but loyal user base, which was disappointed when Be Inc. failed commercially and no further enhancement of the operating system would be possible. In the years that followed 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. To ensure that the OS could not be "taken away" from the Be community again, and to attract the efforts of volunteer programmers, these projects were all free and open source software. The modular nature of the original BeOS facilitated recreating the operating system a piece at a time, inserting the newly coded modules into a working BeOS system to test compatibility. Eventually, all of the "servers" (interworking modules of code) were to be replaced with original, freely licensed code.

Within a few years, some of these projects lost momentum and were discontinued. The Blue Eyed Os website is back online after being missing for 2 years but hasn't had a release since 2003, the most recent release available on the Cosmoe web site is from 2004 and active development on E/OS ended in July 2008, BeOS Workstation picked up where Be. Inc left off but that too seems to be dead as well. Development however continues on Haiku, a complete reimplementation of BeOS. The first alpha release, "Haiku R1 / Alpha 1", was released on September 14, 2009.[8] The second alpha release, "Haiku R1 / Alpha 2", was made available on May 9, 2010.[9] The third alpha release, "Haiku R1 / Alpha 3", was released on June 18, 2011.[10]

Projects to continue BeOS

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.

Products using BeOS

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[11] and the TuneTracker radio automation software that runs on BeOS and Zeta, but is also sold as a "Station-in-a-Box" with the Zeta operating system included.[12]

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

iZ Technology sells the RADAR 24 and RADAR V, hard disk-based, 24-track professional audio recorders based on BeOS 5.[13]

Magicbox, a manufacturer of signage and broadcast display machines, uses BeOS to power their Aavelin product line.[14]

Final Scratch, the 12″ 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.

See also


  1. ^ "Haiku Release 1 Alpha 3",, June 18, 2011, .
  2. ^ Tom (2004-11-24). "BeOS @ MaCreate". Archived from the original on 2005-03-24. Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  3. ^ Apple Confidential: The Day They Almost Decided To Put Windows NT On The Mac Instead Of OS X!
  4. ^ Andrew Orlowski (2002-02-20). "Be Inc. sues Microsoft". Retrieved 2008-04-24. 
  5. ^ Mark Berniker (2003-09-08). "Microsoft Settles Anti-Trust Charges with Be". Retrieved 2008-04-24. 
  6. ^ PalmSource Introduces Palm OS Cobalt, PalmSource press release, 10 February 2004.
  7. ^ "BeBits — The Best Source of BeOS Software". Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  8. ^ "Haiku Project Announces Availability of Haiku R1/Alpha 1". 2009-09-14. 
  9. ^ "Haiku Project Announces Availability of Haiku R1/Alpha 2". 2010-05-09. 
  10. ^ "Haiku Release 1 Alpha 3",, June 18, 2011, .
  11. ^ "EDIROL by Roland DV-7DL Series Digital Video Workstations". Archived from the original on 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  12. ^ "TuneTracker Radio Automation Software". Retrieved 2006-12-09. 
  13. ^ "iZ RADAR 24". Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  14. ^ Jay Ankeney (2006-05-01). "Technology Showcase: Digital Signage Hardware". Digital Content Producer. Retrieved 2006-12-09. 

External links

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