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BeOS is a personal computer operating system developed by Be Incorporated in 1990 as a media OS.

A highly modular microkernel OS written in completely new code (and not based on UNIX, a common misconception due to Be's inclusion of the Bash command shell), it is optimised for digital media work - digital audio, digital video, and 3D graphics and animations. Also unlike UNIX, it is a single-user operating system. It is multiprocessor capable and emphasizes high efficiency, modular I/O bandwidth and pervasive multi-threading for preemptive multitasking, graphical flexibility, and real-time responsiveness. It has an optimised 64-bit journaling and indexed file system called BFS, but rather than use a database BeOS relied on its low OS latencies to journal and query file attributes on the fly. A new multithreaded graphical user interface was developed on the principles of clarity and a clean, uncluttered design. The interface API was written in C++ for ease-of-programming. It has POSIX compatibility and access to a command line interface through the Bash shell.

Initially the OS ran on its own BeBox hardware; it was extended to cover all computers running PowerPC processors and then onto Intel processor based computers. Despite interest from Apple to replace the Mac OS with BeOS, the system did not achieve a significant marketshare. In 2001 Be's intellectual property was sold to Palm, Inc. BeOS 5 is considered the last version, though a substantial upgrade was in the works before the bankruptcy.

In February 2001 Be Inc. filed suit against Microsoft. For several years Microsoft operated exclusive licensing deals with PC manufacturers that effectively prevented the release of machines with more than one operating system, and in practice anything other than Microsoft's Windows. Be claimed that this anti-competitive behavior forced them out of business, as BeOS couldn't get enough of a foothold in the marketplace to overcome this. In fact, Be Inc.'s CEO (Jean-Louis Gassée) offered to give BeOS for free to any PC manufacturer who would dual-boot Windows and BeOS; none of them accepted the offer. On Sept 5th 2003 Microsoft and Be Inc. settled their case with Be Inc. receiving $23.2 million and Microsoft no longer being accused of anticompetitive wrongdoing.

Projects to Recreate BeOS

BeOS was well loved by many people, and the BeOS userbase was understandably disappointed when Be Inc. commercially failed. As of 2002, a few open source projects have formed to recreate BeOS 5 and then extend its capabilities once the original BeOS is fully recreated (without any closed proprietary code). The microkernel nature of BeOS makes it possible to recreate the operating system a piece at a time, inserting the new code into a working BeOS system to test compatibility. Eventually all the microkernel "servers" (interworking modules of code) are replaced.

Projects to Continue BeOS

A German company called yellowTab has the rights to produce BeOS. They do offer a commercial product called Zeta. It is a progression of the BeOS 6 (codenamed Dano) the unfinished version by Be Inc. before its bankruptcy.