Be, which targets the operating system toward multimedia content producers, says the new release offers improvements to the user interface, the ability to read from and write to Mac-formatted hard drives, faster networking performance, and increased system reliability.
The BeOS offers a multithreaded operating system, meaning it can run several programs simultaneously. It offers "preemptive multitasking" and protected memory, which essentially means there are fewer crashes of applications and the OS itself. It also supports symmetric multiprocessing systems, meaning that it can efficiently take advantage of additional processors to get higher performance.
In the last two months over 100 more applications have been released for the operating system, according to the company. This is important for attracting a large enough base of users for supporting more third-party software development, which is critical to the long-term viability of the BeOS.
The company continues to work on a version for computers using Intel processors, a move which is even more important in light of recent developments in the Mac clone market.
The BeOS was originally designed for use on PowerPC-based, Be-manufactured hardware, but it was ported to run on other PowerPC systems, primarily Macintosh-compatible computers. Be later stopped making its own hardware business to concentrate on developing the operating system and license it to Mac clone vendors, including Umax, Motorola, and Power Computing.
However, Apple Computer's recent decision to drastically restrict cloning has resulted in the shutdown of Motorola and Power Computing's sales of Mac compatible computers.
Because Motorola and Power won't be shipping the BeOS on new systems by the time the next release comes out next year, the company may need to look to licensing the OS to PC clone makers to ensure a wide enough audience for its product.
Be says the next release of its OS is expected in the first quarter of 1998 and will be the first commercial release to support both Intel and PowerPC systems.
The latest release can be purchased from the company's Web site. The price is $50 for the retail package (with a printed user's guide and free upgrades for the next two releases) and $10 for the trial package (which includes electronic documentation but no future releases).