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Be says the future is now

Chief executive Jean-Louis Gassée maps out Be's future in the wake of its spurned flirtation with Apple.

PALM SPRINGS, California--Apple Computer opted to boost its chances in large enterprises rather than choose a multimedia solution in deciding to buy Next Software's operating system over Be's software, Be CEO Jean-Louis Gassée told high-tech executives last night.

"Apple sees Next as an opportunity to go into a market where it has perennial problems, the enterprise market," Gassée told a conference sponsored by Upside magazine and the Nasdaq stock exchange. "We have no credibility in the enterprise market. The good thing about Next is that it's a proven operating system. We know where it works--in the enterprise.

"We thought [Apple's] focus was on a rich variety of applications," Gassée said. "They changed their mind."

Be and its flamboyant leader, never far from the spotlight, have been subject to even more media attention than usual since the company's operating system was rejected by Apple last month.

Be and Apple had discussed a potential merger for several months before negotiations broke down over money. Apple then turned to Next, passing over one of its highest-profile alumnae, Gassée.

But Be isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. The company intends to build on its recent pact with Power Computing, an Apple licensee to manufacture Macintosh clones, to port its operating system to other Mac clone makers.

Gassée said Be, creator of the hardware BeBox device, sees its future in software, not hardware. "I don't see long term how we can compete with Power Computing, Umax, IBM, and Motorola. Hardware manufacturing is not our focus."

Gassée said Be would consider porting its operating system to computers based on Intel chips, noting that adapting its operating system to Macintosh had taken three months.