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Be to Be FreeB(i)e

Written By: R. Krause
Published On: January 26 2000

Event Summary

January 18, 2000 - Be Inc. said today that it will offer the newest version of its operating system for free later this quarter. Version 5 for the desktop will be available for download to pre-registered individuals. Be will also work with publishers and other partners to distribute the software. Commercial users of BeOS 5 will still require a separate license from Be. The software currently retails for $99.

The move is designed to "maximize the visibility and acceptance of Be technology," the company said.

"Making the free version of BeOS 5 available through the Internet and other channels allows us to aggressively promote our technology, maximize our visibility and obtain valuable market feedback while aggressively pursuing Internet appliance opportunities," CEO Jean-Louis Gassee said in a release.

The company said users will be able to use the operating system on their Windows-based PCs without the need to repartition their hard drives. It will be stored as a file within the Windows file system, and available by launching an icon, just like any application.

The BeOS can also be uninstalled like other applications, according to the company. BeOS "may work" with some Power Macintosh computers, but is not compatible with current Apple computers, according to the company.

The company said today that was re-focusing the company on the Internet appliance market. Be is developing the OS for its Stinger technology, software for appliances that deliver information and entertainment over the Web. Be said Stinger is customizable, includes a browser and supports popular streaming audio and video standards. .

Market Impact

We believe this move, as it currently stands, will ultimately be less successful than the scenario it is trying to emulate, i.e. Linux and the growth of the open source market. People other than current Be-ophiles will be drawn to Be-based equipment for two reasons: (1) BeOS is "not Microsoft", or (2) if sufficient applications exist to draw them. Being "not Microsoft" can be a good early draw, but long-term strategy requires applications. With less than 1000 Intel-compatible applications available from the Be, Inc. website (vs. approximately 100,000 for Windows), BeOS will need to get developers onboard early. It is unclear that giving it away to non-commercial users will help BeOS reach "critical mass", i.e. market size sufficient to draw developers without offering other incentives.

Be Inc. should consider giving away trial versions of key applications (such as a productivity suite) to help increase desktop market share. In addition, Be should continue its aggressive pursuit of marketing deals with the large hardware vendors, similar to its current deal with Compaq, Sun, and National Semiconductor.

User Recommendations

Users need not rush out to download it (even if it were available today), especially if they already have working systems. Be-ophiles in general are happy with BeOS robustness, so and we are less concerned with its reliability than that of Windows. Be Inc. promotes that BeOS can be loaded onto a Windows-based system,. and can be run without major adjustments such as repartitioning a drive, or re-configuring the system to be a dual-boot system. Assuming this to be the case, users can try BeOS relatively risk-free. BeOS's future is tied more to Internet appliances than to current desktops, so we expect market penetration on current machines to be low.

Commercial users wanting to try it should do so in a controlled environment, e.g. dedicated test systems, before committing to a large installation. Even if it performs admirably, though, it is not clear that there will be enough reason for commercial users to move away from their current environment. For now, look on it more as an educational exercise than as an IT strategy .

 
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