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Be may still run the Mac

Macworld Expo The BeOS may yet wind up as the replacement for the Mac OS since it could offer Mac-application compatibility before Apple does.

    Macworld Expo SAN FRANCISCO--Although Apple (AAPL) passed over the BeOS as the basis for its next-generation operating system, Be's system may yet wind up as the replacement for the Mac OS since it could offer Mac-application compatibility before Apple does.

    As reported earlier by CNET, Be founder, chairman, and chief executive Jean-Louis Gassée will show off at Macworld Expo software that fools Mac apps into thinking that the BeOS is the Mac OS, allowing 7.x applications to run on the BeOS. Demonstrations will take place at Mac clone maker Power Computing booth as well as Be's own booth.

    The news comes as Apple is set to unveil today plans for the next iteration of its operating system, which will incorporate technology new acquisition Next. Apple's new OS, code-named Rhapsody, is not expected to have full backward compatibility with System 7.x applications until mid-1998.

    The VirtualMac works by tricking Mac applications into thinking they are in a Mac environment. The BeOS treats the Mac applications like any other task, so users will have the advantage of protected memory and multitasking that the BeOS offers but that the current Mac OS does not.

    While Be seems to be ahead of the game, the company emphasized that the software is still in development and that more decisions about how to integrate the System 7.x environment into the BeOS need to be made before the product becomes available.

    Be says that the technology, developed by San Francisco-based software maker fredlabs allows data to be exchanged between System 7.x applications and the BeOS. Later in the first quarter, Be also expects to deliver additional features such as the ability to access files and data written by System 7.x computers.

    The BeOS is designed from scratch to take advantage of all the most modern OS development techniques:

  • It is multithreaded and has preemptive multitasking which means it can process several tasks at once.
  • It offers protected memory so one crashed application cannot crash the entire operating system.
  • It can run on a system with several processors instead of only one.
  • It relies on a modular, or object-oriented, design that is faster and easier to update.

    Apple pursued a deal with Be because it wants all of these features for its own operating system. A potential merger was discussed for several months before negotiations reportedly broke down over money. Apple then turned to Next, which has ended up being the provider of a powerful, next-generation operating system.

    Be is still working closely with Power Computing, one of the largest Mac clone vendors. Power Computing plans to ship a separate CD-ROM with the BeOS in the first quarter of 1997 as a tool for use in multimedia and communications applications.