Be's modern operating system will be bundled as a separate CD-ROM and marketed as a tool for use in multimedia and communications applications. Power Computing will start shipping the CD-ROM in the first quarter of 1997 as a part of what the two companies are calling a multiyear, long-term strategic relationship.
"Initially, I didn't think a new OS would be possible, but I'm impressed with what Be has come up with. We've been talking to many developers and customers and they are very enthusiastic about this technology," said Steve Kahng, chairman and CEO of Power Computing, in a teleconference call. Kahng declined to give any financial details about the licensing deal.
The BeOS was built from the ground up as a symmetric multiprocessing operating system for use with multiple lower-cost PowerPC processors. It is a multithreaded system with preemptive multitasking that offers protected memory and an object-oriented design.
The main advantage of the BeOS over the current MacOS is its multiprocessor orientation. The BeOS allows, for example, relatively high-performance playback of several video clips at the same time. This ability to speed up the processing of several operations simultaneously is the main advantage Power Computing will present to the vertical graphics arts and multimedia publishing markets.
Users will be able to create a partition on their hard drives or install the BeOS on a second hard drive and will be presented with a start-up screen that asks which system should be run.
Officials at Power Computing are calling the setup a first look at the reference design PowerPC Platforms (formerly referred to as CHRP), which will be able to boot up either the Mac OS, Windows NT, or Unix platforms such as AIX.
Dual-boot PowerPC systems will not be available from PowerPC Platform vendors until Apple Computer ships a Mac OS specific to the PowerPC reference design sometime in the second quarter of 1997. While Apple struggles to modernize its OS, Power Computing is trying not to make the deal look like a slap in the face to Apple's efforts.
"We are first and foremost a Mac OS licensee. We were put into business by Apple; it's our job to increase the number of Mac platforms," emphasizes Mike Rosenfelt, marketing manager at Power Computing.
"Our view of the developments at Apple over the last couple of months is very optimistic when it comes to system software...Apple is on the right path. Our announcement doesn't impact [this view]," Rosenfelt says, adding that Power Computing is just offering customers what they are asking for.
For analysts, the jury is out on whether this may give Be more leverage with Apple. "It strengthens Be's position, but does it upgrade their [position] from being a spear in the side to a having Apple in a hammerlock? I don't think so," says Chris LeToc, an analyst with the market research firm Dataquest.