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BeOS was both well
received and poorly handled. The OS itself was incredibly
customized for the processor architecture it was built on, and
so it benefited greatly. It was unparalleled in responsiveness
and reliability. Due to the supreme diligence of the
programmers, it was also largely bug-free. It was one of the
most stable, fastest OSes of its day. Even today, it could be
considered top of the ranks.
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The problem that BeOS faced was one of hardware. The BeBox was
unique. Over a thousand developers wanted one after their first
public demonstration, which at the time was a rather large
number. Unfortunately, Be was plagued with money and production
issues. Each BeBox was produced in-house with boards
manufactured in Taiwan, and so production time was slow. Only
100 of the initial thousand orders were shipped. After several
months, Be was able to sign a financing deal to produce more,
but they continued to fight delays and issues. Faulty sound
cards, poor shipping and improper installation all combined to
make many of the BeBoxes that were eventually shipped into duds.
Be eventually withdrew from the hardware ring and focused on the
BeOS itself. Unfortunately, due to mounting debts and decreased
interest after the faulty hardware debacle, Be had to fight for
public attention. They seemed poised for ultimate victory when
Apple expressed an interested in buying them. The BeOS was an
excellent candidate for inclusion in Apple's new line of Macs,
as a replacement for the then-aging Mac OS. This was where Be
made a fatal mistake. They held out for a $200 million deal from
Apple, but Apple refused to go any higher than $125 million.
This delay caused Apple to look elsewhere, eventually purchasing
NeXT from Steve Jobs for a significantly higher sum, bringing
the Apple co-founder back into the fold and creating the Apple
we know today.
After being passed over by Apple, Be struggled. They had a small
number of devout followers, but they could not support their
debt. Be released BeOS Personal, a stripped and lightweight
version of the OS, free. This was intended to drum up interest
in the OS, but proved to do little. When the Personal Edition
proved to be lackluster, Be released BeIA, a variant of BeOS for
Internet Appliances. BeIA was a larger success, but it was
already too late for the company. Palm ended up buying the
copyrights from Be for a meager $11 million, far less than they
would have gotten from Apple.
BeOS still has a number of devout fans. Many of the original
BeBoxes still exist and are owned by loving operators. Even in
2013, people are still running and programming for BeBoxes. Some
dedicated fans reverse-engineered the BeOS code modules and
created Haiku, designed to function the same. Haiku operates
today and is still an active community of engineers and OS
Common opinion of the BeBox and BeOS can be found through
reviews and quotes from many of the original BeBox owners. Here
are some excerpts, taken from various publications and the
Jim Moy, original BeBox owner: "I'm impressed by the
documentation, and it's been pretty easy to get a simple app
running, just trying out the buttons, menus, etc."
Andrew Welch, Macintosh programmer: ôSo would I recommend a
BeBox to you? That depends. Right now, there is a severe paucity
of software available for the machine. If you expect to use it
as your day-to-day computer for general purposes, then I'd have
to give you a negatory on that one.
However if you already have a computer, and are a developer or
perhaps someone who simply likes to be using the latest, coolest
technology, then I'd urge you to investigate purchasing a BeBox.
It's a developer's paradise in terms of a clean, fun system to
John Norstad, BeBox enthusiast and early resident of the
newsgroup: "My advice to end users: Stay away! There's nothing
here for you yet! Give us time! But pay attention to what we're
up to and keep thinking about us and wishing us well. If all
goes well, your day will come.
My advice to people who love to program and are frustrated with
their current behemoth systems with all their baggage and
complexities: Get your hands on one of these boxes as soon as
you can. Don't delay! You won't regret it."
In short, general opinion at the time was that the BeBox itself
was an ugly but functional beast of a machine. The BeOS was
highly responsive and looked fun for any programmer to work
with. For end users, however, the lack of applications and the
non-standard configuration made it a tough sell.
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