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Dave Haynie on the end of the Be era

Filed under the:  department.
Posted by:Deej on Sunday, 23 Dec, 2001 @ 2:45 AM
Be Inc

Well, it’s pretty much official (as if it wasn’t before :P ) - Be, Inc. is now gone. Their website is now but a single page, and \. posted the news.

Be’s BeDevTalk and BeCodeTalk mailing lists are now gone (however, Bruno has created new lists on BUG-Br’s server here and here, respectively).

Dave Haynie, CTO of Merlancia Multimedia Systems, in the last minute fury of mailing list talk just before the servers were shut down, posted a little prospective history of his own with BeOS. For those of you out there that might not remember, Dave Haynie was _very_ involved with the Amiga, to say the least, and Merlancia plans on releasing some pretty impressive PPC systems out there that will run, among other things, BeOS R5 PPC. While he still sounds positive about Merlancia offering BeOS on their systems, only time will tell - as the future of any form of BeOS is still very much up in the air. We’ll keep you posted if we get any more information on that topic, of course.

“Read more” for Dave’s letter to BeOS Developers.

It’s sad, the way things turned out for Be. Having been involved in several other “great technology meets questionable corporate practice and/or harsh market conditions” situations in the last ~8 years or so, this isn’t a shock. But even though I wasn’t actually working for Be, several of my friends were, and as well, this was the technology that should have had a chance.

I first heard of BeOS and the BeBox in the fall of ‘95. It was, I think, the weekend after the official annoucement, the Web site has just gone hot, and I signed up as a developer 12 hours after first hearing about Be.

I never released a Be program. Less than a month after the announcement, before I even received my BeBox, I wound up consulting for a group in Germany, trying to resurrect Amiga, which eventually and strangely, resulting a year later in my new company, PIOS Compter, becoming the German distributer for the BeBox. They just couldn’t get enough of them. When Be dropped the BeBox, and hardware in general, in early ‘97, I tried to get PIOS to take it over, but the two sets of managers couldn’t make a deal.

You guys should have seen Joe Palmer’s next-generation BeBox, with a modular CPU card. Curiously, I was working on precisely the same thing at PIOS (now called Metabox by the way, though I’m no longer with them), and I think we saw things the same way, hardware wise, though Joe was at least a few steps ahead.

I tried again to get involved with Be in a big way, in ‘97, with the new PIOS One hardware, but there was ego at the management level that apparently made us too small to bother with. Then we all got caught up in the Apple thing, no more MacOS licensing, which pretty much killed the open PowerPC platforms.

And yet, ultimately, I felt Be came out of this mess fine. BeOS ran great on my dual processor Pentium II machine in ‘98 and ‘99. The fact of BeOS being there let me not have to think about the post-Commodore mess that had rendered AmigaOS basically moot; BeOS was the one OS that was simply better, for digital media, than AmigaOS. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel — Real Soon Now, when BeOS 5 shipped, I could move my home music studio off Windows and onto BeOS, fulltime. Half the high-end digital audio HW companies were writing BeOS drivers, most of the app companies were either writing apps or watching closely. This really could be a win.

Then the BeIA announcement, and I knew it was all over with. See, PIOS/Metabox had found our “post Apple” refuge in the emerging set-top-box/internet appliance/home media device market. With some success, actually. In 1998, we had a PC-based STB, using the only real solution at that time, the Cyrix (later National Semiconductor) MediaGX chipset. We started with Linux, but it wasn’t ready for anything involving media or small systems. We approached Be, but they didn’t understand that market, much less the notion that $50 for an OS was way too much for a $200-$300 consumer computer. We settled for OS/2 — IBM actually did understand this market, and who knows, maybe having an application other than “Automatic Teller Machine” was an emotional win for them.

But by the BeIA annoucement, we were already developing our own STB OS. From scratch, for the job at hand. It seemed pretty obvious to us that BeIA just couldn’t play, especially given its ties to the PClone. Ultimately, no one in this sector has had a good few years, but the whole IA move was sad. They were so frickin’ close to success in the DAW market, and yet, the move to IA seemed to have absolutely no shot, at least when viewed from the prespective a guy who had been busting chops in that market so much longer than Be.

I hope there’s some kind of post-Be life for BeOS, whether Palm decides to do something reasonable with it, or some Open Source version comes along. I have a new gig, these days, with what’s essentially a startup company, again, pushing into a variety of non-Windows, niche markets using more off-the-shelf tech (as in JMG’s “PC Organ Bank”) with media-centric HW enhancements built-in. There’s a ton of things one can do here. If there’s a real BeOS future, systems with BeOS pre-installed will be another of those. We’ll see.

There’s a point at which, in any endeavor, there’s really nowhere to go but up. This happened with AmigaOS; it hasn’t shot up, but it has risen a bit, with the new Amiga company, and may actually have a future measured in years rather than days. BeOS would seem to be about there now, and given that is isn’t dead yet, perhpas it’ll rise again. I certainly hope so. Unlike Scot Hacker, I’m never, ever buying a Mac. I don’t see signing up with a Yet-Again-Even-More-Evil Empire, running on slow CPUs, on totaly closed hardware, as any solution for the Microsoft Problem.

-Dave Haynie

reposted with permission

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