Be Incorporated

From Academic Kids

Be, Incorporated was the company that developed the BeOS operating system and BeBox computer. It was founded by Jean-Louis Gassée in 1990 using money from friends in the industry, including the legendary Seymour Cray. The intent was to develop a brand new operating system entirely in C++ on a custom hardware platform.

The operating system was later ported to Apple's PowerPC Macintosh systems despite resistance from Apple. Just before the final release, a version that ran on Pentium-class machines, BeOS x86, was also released.


Significant Achievements

While the operating system never reached the point of commercial release, it did have quite a loyal following of small software developers. A few products that premiered on BeOS first:

  • Final Scratch, a DJ music system that used special records on regular turntables to control digital music files was released first on BeOS.

The BeBox, with its distinctive strips of lights up the front that indicated the load of each CPU, and the outrageous GeekPort has made it a highly desirable item for collectors.

Potential Acquisition

When Apple was searching for a new operating system to replace their aging MacOS product, two final contenders were BeOS and NeXTstep. The deal swung towards NeXT due to the persuasive influence of Steve Jobs and the incomplete state of the BeOS product, criticized at the time for lacking such features as a printing capability.

End of Operations

Ultimately the assets of the corporation were bought by Palm, Inc. for US$11 million in 2001, at which point the company entered dissolution. The company then initiated litigation against Microsoft for anti-competitive business practices, specifically the prohibition of OEM's to allow dual-boot systems containing both Microsoft and non-Microsoft operating systems.

The suit was settled in September 2003 with a US$23.25 million payout to Be, Inc.

In addition to BeOS, Be also produced BeIA, an ill-fated OS for internet appliances. It was however used commercially by Sony and DT Research, amongst others, during its short lifespan.

Be's corporate offices were located in Menlo Park, California; as well as regional sales offices in France and Japan. The company has however relocated to Mountain View in California for the duration of its dissolution.

Origin of the Name

According to several sources including Macworld UK, the company name "Be" had its origin in a conversation between Gassée and Be co-founder Steve Sakoman. Gassée originally thought the company should be called "United Technoids Inc.", but Sakoman disagreed and said he would start looking through the dictionary for a better name. A few days later, when Gassée asked if he had made any progress, Sakoman replied that he had gotten tired and stopped at "B." Gassée said, "Be is nice. End of story."

External Links

  • Be Site ( (Archived)
  • Be Newsletters (

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