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Be wins European PC deal

The upstart Be operating system will be seen more often in Europe, thanks to a licensing deal with Fujitsu.

2 min read
The upstart Be operating system will take on a higher profile in Europe, thanks to a licensing deal that landed the company on one company's start-up screen.

Be Incorporated signed a deal with Fujitsu Computers to pre-install the BeOS on Fujitsu's Silverline PCs. Be makes operating system software aimed at multimedia content creation.

The Pentium III-based systems are slated to ship by May in Europe only. Be is treating the deal as a victory because of a special feature that will allow users to chose between the Windows OS or the BeOS every time they start up their computer. A screen pops up on the monitor during the boot-up process and asks the user to chose which OS--Windows or Be--they want to run.

While Hitachi has pre-installed the BeOS in systems in Japan, a user could enable the software only by inserting a separate floppy disk, and didn't immediately have a choice between operating systems.

Saying that simply allowing users to choose their OS on startup is a "huge fight," the company is now celebrating its small, but symbolic victory, said Frank Boosman, vice president of business development.

Earlier this month, Be CEO Jean-Louis Gassee made a public offer to give a top-tier PC maker the operating system for free--if his was the only operating system seen on startup. Be executives declined to say whether Fujitsu met that criteria.

The offer, Gassee said, was an attempt to thwart Microsoft's sway with PC manufacturers. He criticized Microsoft for wielding onerous licensing policies that made it difficult for his company to secure any visibility at all in the PC market.

"A free market is exactly what we want, one where a PC [maker] isn't threatened by financial death for daring to offer operating systems that compete with the Windows monopoly," Gassee penned in "A Crack in the Wall," a column in the Be newsletter.

"Even if we make it free, the fact is that there are certain policies that make it extremely difficult to preinstall the BeOS," said Boosman. The Fujitsu deal, he said, validated the point drawn by Gassee.

Boosman said the company expects that most of its licensing deals are likely to come in the European and Japanese markets in the near term.

After failing to be acquired by Apple Computer in 1996, Be has survived mostly on venture capital, including a reported infusion of cash from the likes of Intel last fall.