Press Page - The Public Reception

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 enthusiasts.

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 comp.sys.be newsgroup.

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 work on."

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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