Be that as it may...
Be's Hardware Plans
Dear Be Developer,
We've taken the decision to focus purely on software
development and to cease production of
the BeBox. We want to explain what led to this decision
and what this implies for you, our
Be's goal is to make the BeOS the premier platform for
digital content design. To that end, the
BeOS was designed to take advantage of high-performance
hardware and to take particular
advantage of multiprocessor hardware. Until recently,
low-cost MP machines have been
scarce, and they were scarcer still in 1990 when the
original BeBox was conceived. The
BeBox, in its various forms and revisions, was designed to
prove the point that you _can_
build an MP personal computer, and we'd like to think that
it succeeded in doing just that.
In 1996, we ported the BeOS to the PowerMac architecture,
and began to see the advantages of
running our OS on widely-available, mass-market hardware.
With the advent of MP
PowerMacs from Apple, Power Computing, DayStar, and others
yet to come, we've been able
to run the BeOS on some pretty impressive hardware,
ranging from very low-cost 603-family
desktops through to hulking testosterone devices like the
quad 200MHz 604e DayStar
It's very hard, actually impossible, for a small 50-person
company like Be to keep up with the
hardware engineering resources of the entire PowerMac
market. At Macworld in San Francisco
last month, it became very clear that almost all the
developer and future user interest was in the
BeOS for PowerMac. Sure, if we could build a quad 604
BeBox and ship it this quarter for
$3,000, or even $5,000, we'd have a winner on our hands.
But, our investigations revealed
that products like this take a lot of time and money to
develop, and cost a lot to build, especially
in low volumes.
In addition, a very large part of our, and our
developers', target market of digital content
designers uses PowerMacs and applications running on the
MacOS. By offering the BeOS on
PowerMacs, we allow them to run on their existing hardware
(with greater performance,
functionality and stability) and to run their existing
MacOS apps, either by dual-booting or by
using VirtualMac technology.
Finally, we faced an ethical dilemma: as we license
hardware vendors to bundle the BeOS, we
have a potential conflict of interest. How do we optimize
between our hardware sales and
making the BeOS available on other manufacturers'
hardware? This conflict of interest faces
any company that sells an OS on its own hardware while
licensing it to other hardware
manufacturers. We've chosen to avoid the conflict in the
simplest way possible.
So, what does this mean for current BeBox owners?
We will honor the warranties on all the BeBoxes that we've
sold, of course. We'll make best
efforts to keep spares available for as long as possible
after the last warranty has expired.
Remember, most of the content of a BeBox is off-the-shelf
PC hardware and should be
maintainable for many years. Releases of the BeOS planned
for the next 12 months will
support the BeBox and we'll make best efforts to continue
support beyond that.
And what does this mean for all Be developers?
Most of the people using the BeOS today are already using
it on PowerMacs. Given the
availability of exciting low-cost UP and MP PowerMacs from
Power Computing, Apple and
others, the cost of entry to developing for the BeOS is
lower than ever. However, in the spirit
of lowering this cost even further, we're preparing some
special developer packages that we'll
The BeBox's unique i/o capabilities are becoming less
unique as media-rich i/o becomes more
accessible on mass-market machines. We're already working
on video and audio drivers for
emerging and existing PowerMac hardware.
However well-reasoned and reasonable this decision is, we
know that all such transitions can
cause pain and inconvenience. As a company and a team that
knows in its bones how important
it is to work closely and well with our developers for our
mutual success, we want to ensure
that we do our best to make this transition as smooth as
possible for our BeBox owners. Please
let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
Alex Osadzinski, for the Be team.
I got two turntables and a microphone...
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