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BeOS joins Intel camp

Be is positioning its software as a "specialty OS" for multimedia production that will run on systems alongside a "general purpose" OS such as Windows 95.

Be announced it is shipping a revised version of the Be operating system (BeOS) that's the first to be available for Intel-based systems, marking a transition away from the company's roots in the Macintosh platform.

Be is positioning its software as a "specialty OS" for multimedia production that will run on systems alongside a "general purpose" OS such as Windows 95 or the Mac OS.

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. With only one major Mac clone maker remaining, however, the company's ability to distribute the software to a wide enough audience has been severely curtailed. In order to remain a viable "alternative" OS, the company started developing a version of the OS for computers using Intel processors.

Saying the release of the software was hugely important for the company, a company spokesperson said "Intel clearly has most of the installed base and almost the entire shipping volume in the desktop business," and noted that the company attributed a rise in the number of BeOS application developers to the move to Intel.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.

Additionally, Apple is no longer giving information to Be on future PowerPC processor design, meaning that the company will not be able to produce a version for new Macs within a year's time.

Availability of software will be hugely critical to the success of Be's operating system software, and so far there are only about a dozen applications for the BeOS on Intel chips. However, the company said that people were in the process of moving applications written for the PowerPC over to Intel chips, and that the process was a relatively simple one. Be said that there are now over 300 applications for the PowerPC version of the BeOS.

The BeOS offers a multithreaded operating system, meaning it can run several programs simultaneously as well as "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. Because the operating system can help spur sales of more processors, Intel is likely to be interested in helping Be.

Be is perhaps best known for being a wooed by Apple Computer as a buyout candidate whose operating system was a potential successor to the MacOS until Apple decided to buy Next Software and its OpenStep operating system instead.

Porting the OS to Intel has apparently made the company an appealing investment to another set of investors. On Tuesday, the company closed a second round of venture capital financing, securing $25 million in funds, according to a spokesperson. He declined to comment on whether Intel had invested in the company.

Release 3 for Intel systems is available from the company for $99.95, with a $69.95 limited-time introductory offer in place. The PowerPC version will be ready on April 20, the company said.