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Gassee resigns from software maker Be

The company, which recently sold its Be operating system assets to Palm, also says it is considering filing an antitrust suit against Microsoft.

Be Incorporated chief executive Jean-Louis Gassee has resigned and will be replaced by the software company's lead attorney as the board of directors ponders a potential antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

Gassee's departure is not surprising, Gassee but marks the latest sad chapter for a company that strived for more than 10 years to create a new operating system to compete with Apple, Microsoft and others.

In August, Be agreed to sell its technology assets and intellectual property to handheld maker Palm for $11 million in stock. Three months later, Be's shareholders approved the sale and voted to dissolve the remnants of the company.

"This is the normal progression of events in a company that is winding down and dissolving,'' Gassee said in a statement late Monday. He added that Dan Johnston, who has been appointed president, "is best positioned to guide the company through the intricacies of the statutory dissolution process, and to help the board determine whether an antitrust suit against Microsoft is both viable and serves to maximize stockholder value."

According to a notice on the company's Web site, a public auction of its remaining assets is scheduled for Jan. 16.

Gassee, a former Apple Computer executive, founded Menlo Park, Calif.-based Be in 1990 and the company's OS often received rave reviews. Among its advances was the ability to multitask, or run multiple programs at once, well before mainstream operating systems could.

But gee-wiz technology did not translate into sales as Be failed to gain acceptance with consumers or hardware makers.

Among its few wins was a deal with Sony to use the Be OS in the eVilla, a $499 Web-surfing appliance. But Sony abruptly discontinued the eVilla last August just weeks after it was launched. Sony executives blamed the demise on "stability and usability" problems.

In 1996, Apple was interested in purchasing Be but discussions foundered over price, according to the book "Apple Confidential" by Owen Linzmayer. Gassee reportedly wanted $200 million, a figure then-Apple CEO Gil Amelio called "outrageous" and offered $125 million. Apple later acquired Steve Jobs' software company, Next.

Be shares, which reached nearly $40 in late 1999, closed unchanged Monday at 14 cents, giving the company a total market value of $5.2 million.