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BeOS in port for Intel chips

Apple isn't the only company interested in the Be operating system. Intel is, too.

Apple (AAPL) isn't the only company interested in the Be operating system.

Be is working on porting its operating system to the x86 chip platform, with active encouragement from Intel (INTC). A port would mean that the major PC vendors who use Intel processors could license the BeOS for loading onto their computers.

Currently, the BeOS only ships on the BeBox, a system that uses dual 603e PowerPC processors. Be recently announced that their OS would ship with Macintosh clones from Power Computing starting in January.

A portion of the work on porting the kernel of the BeOS has in fact already been completed, according to an industry source close to the company. The kernel of the operating system is the innermost layer of the operating system, and it's where most of the work is required in order to run on a different chip. Most of the rest of the BeOS, including the interface, can be modified pretty easily to run on Intel-based systems, the source said.

Intel has a keen interest in seeing the BeOS run on its chips, according to the source. Intel wouldn't comment directly on its interest in the operating system but said it certainly wouldn't be displeased if Be made the effort.

"Every other major OS is on the Intel platform, so to the extent that someone wants to port to our architecture, great. We'll sell more chips," said a spokesperson for Intel. "We won't comment if there are any discussions going on. No announcements have been made," the spokesperson added.

The BeOS is a multithreaded system based on an object-oriented design. It offers preemptive multitasking and protected memory, which means fewer crashes of applications and the OS itself. It was built from scratch as a symmetric multiprocessing operating system, meaning that it take advantage of systems that use more than one processor to get higher performance.

Its modern design is less tied to a specific set of microprocessors than older operating systems.

"It is our intention to eventually look at other architectures. We'll have to see about timing," said a Be spokesperson.

But that doesn't mean that Be isn't still very much focused on the PowerPC platform, particularly now that Be is expecting 603e PowerPC processors running as fast as 300 MHz to show up at the upcoming MacWorld trade show in January.