Part of the Operating systems glossary:

BeOS is a personal computer operating system that its makers describe as designed for the multimedia applications of the future. Be founder Jean-Louis Gasse left Apple Computer in 1990 to create an operating system that could exploit new architectural ideas and be free of the baggage that older operating systems invariably bring with them. The first BeOS was used in a computer called the BeBox, since abandoned so the company could concentrate on the software. In 1996, BeOS had Apple's Macintosh users in mind when it ported the system to the PowerPC microprocessor . More recently, BeOS has been ported to Intel's Pentium computers. It can be installed in the same computer with another operating system such as Windows or Mac OS and used as an alternative operating system for applications requiring fast handling of streaming video, games, and other multimedia applications.

BeOS can run on multiple microprocessors at the same time (using symmetric multiprocessing ) and is able to coordinate work threads across the processors. Anticipating the arrival of digital versatile disk and very large files such as feature-length movies, BeOS provides a 64-bit file system that can handle files of terabyte size. The operating system, say the BeOS makers, no longer has to be a bottleneck between the Internet, applications, and the user.

BeOS comes with a desktop user interface that improves in some ways on both Windows and the Mac and a built-in Web browser, audio, MIDI , and its own 3D interface as well as support for OpenGL . Other features include antialiasing fonts, Unicode , and support for POSIX utilities and shell commands.

BeOS is also sold as a good system to develop programs for. Programmers are given a relatively simple object-oriented programming application program interface . Metrowerks provides C++ and Java development environments. Because BeOS has little legacy baggage to carry, its system is seen as simpler, easier to maintain and evolve, and less prone to failure. The industry assessment, however, is that without a killer app , BeOS faces an uphill battle. Meanwhile, a number of games are in development and Beatware has developed an office suite (Writer, Sum-It, and Get-It) for it.

This was last updated in June 2008
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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