from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Screenshot of Haiku ,
which BeOS looks very similar
developer Be Incorporated
License (s) Proprietary
Current  version 5.0.3 (August 9, 2000)
Kernel Hybrid kernel
ancestry none (new development)
Architecture (s) x86 , PowerPC
Languages) English
Others There were several follow-up projects

BeOS is an operating system from the former Be Incorporated . Because of its multimedia capabilities, Be also referred to it as "Media OS". However, it could not hold its own on the market and was discontinued in 2001. As a result u. A. Haiku , a free re-implementation of BeOS.


BeOS is a single user system with a modular hybrid kernel for x86 (at least Pentium ) and PowerPC processors (PowerPC 603 and 604, G3 only on upgrade cards). It supports multiprocessor systems with up to eight processors and is multitasking and multithreading capable . BeOS uses its own 64-bit journaling file system called BeFS . However, BeOS is also capable of read and write access to partitions which are formatted with the Windows file systems FAT16 , FAT32 or the Mac OS file system HFS . Partitions that are formatted with the Windows NTFS file system or the Linux ext2 file system can be read-only. BeOS also has memory protection that prevents a crashed program from affecting the entire system. When BeOS was released, this was a real innovation in the home user sector, as the two most popular operating systems at the time, Windows 95 and Mac OS Classic, did not have this technology. BeOS brought its own boot manager with bootman , which fits completely into the master boot record . It cannot read file systems and therefore loads an operating system as if it were started directly, so bootman can start almost any operating system. BeOS did not separate the kernel and the graphical user interface.


version Publication date platform
Developer Release 5 1995 BeBox
Developer Release 6 January 1996
Developer Release 7 April 1996
Developer Release 8 September 1996
Developer Release 8.2 January 1997 BeBox and Power Mac
Developer Release 8.3 March 1997
Developer Release 9 May 1997
Preview Release 1 July 1997
Preview Release 2 October 1997
Release 3 March 1998 x86 , Power Mac and BeBox *
 Release 3.1 June 1998
 Release 3.2 July 1998
Release 4 December 1998 x86, Power Mac and BeBox *
 Release 4.5 June 1999
Release 5 March 2000 x86, Power Mac and BeBox *

* only BeBoxes from revision 6

Developer release

Software developers received developer releases (DR) together with the BeBox and were then sent the latest developer release.

The earlier developer releases only run on the BeBox from Be, the Power Macintosh is only supported from DR version 8.2. The first officially available version was DR6; DR5 was only delivered to a few specially selected companies. The DR9 was distributed at the BeDC (Be Developer Conference) in May 1997 and then sent to all registered developers. The DR9 also bears the suffix AADR, which stands for advanced access preview release , as this is the last version that was only intended for developers and is almost identical to the Preview Release 1, which appeared a short time later. The DR9 brought a few compared to the DR8 profound changes with it. The file system has been expanded to a 64-bit file system, which allows files larger than 2 GB, and journaling functions have been added.

DR6 and earlier versions only run on very few BeBoxes today, as their bootloader has been changed for later versions. BeBoxes that have been updated in this way can no longer operate the old versions.

Preview release

The Preview Release 1 (PR1) from BeOS, which was simply referred to as the Preview Release before the release of the Preview Release 2, was released in July 1997 and is largely based on the DR9 previously supplied to developers. Nevertheless, the PR1 brought further innovations compared to the developer releases, such as support for AppleTalk , PostScript printers, Unicode and software-based OpenGL . The full pack (CD with manual and two updates) of Preview Release 1 was priced at $ 49.95. But there was also a so-called trial pack, which consists of a preview release that was delivered on CD, ran without restrictions and was available for 10 US dollars. Preview Release 2, available from October 1997, was also available as a free download from November 1997 on the Be website. According to Be, this was downloaded more than 1 million times in total until it was no longer available with the appearance of Release 3.

Release 3

BeOS 3, released in March 1998, is the first version that was also available for the x86 architecture. This initially cost 69.95 US dollars (as an introductory price), later 99.95 US dollars. This was followed by version 3.1, which contains additional drivers and allows reading of FAT16 file systems and supports hard disk drives of 8 GB or more. BeOS 3.2 brings again additional drivers especially for the x86 architecture. A live CD for x86 was also released on the basis of Release 3.2 , which was available for 10 US dollars (in Germany for 10 DM).

Release 4

BeOS 4 was released in December 1998 and was priced at $ 99.95 or $ 69.95 (when ordered through Be's website). Compared to the previous version, it brings additional drivers and support for the most common SCSI controllers on the x86 platform - from Adaptec and Symbios Logic . Another fundamental innovation is the change in the compiler version for x86 processors from CodeWarrior to EGCS , as this optimizes the code better for x86 processors. This made it necessary that all programs written for Release 3 had to be adapted and recompiled accordingly, since the entire BeOS for x86 had also been compiled with this compiler.

Another innovation was the switch from the Linux Loader (LILO) used so far to the BeOS boot manager bootman .

In February 1999 the BeOS company offered all computer manufacturers free BeOS licenses. This offer was only valid, however, if the computers offered the option of booting Windows or BeOS , both of which had to be installed on the hard drive. This offer was taken up by various computer manufacturers, such as Fujitsu and Hitachi .

Version 4 was to follow an update to version 4.1, but instead received the follow-up version, because it contains significant innovations that version number 4.5 and appeared a little late in June 1999. Thus provides version 4.5 first experimental support for USB and PCMCIA , brings its own media player with , and the number of supported hardware is increased again, but not supported graphics cards can now be addressed using a VESA driver. Also with BeOS 4.5, an experimental program called World O'Networking (WON) was released, which was supplied on the BeOS 4.5 and BeOS 5 CD and could also be downloaded from the BeOS FTP server until BeOS 5 was released. This program made it possible to access Windows computers over the network.

Updates to version 4.5.1 and 4.5.2 followed, which mainly contained bug fixes, but also contained a few new drivers.

Release 5

The last version developed and published by Be was BeOS 5. It was released in March 2000 as “Professional” and as “Personal Edition”. The "Professional" version of BeOS 5 was sold in Germany from August 2000 by the company Koch Media with a German manual and another CD with free and shareware for 169 DM (around € 85). The "Personal Edition" is a free version for private use, which can only be installed on Windows and then started on Linux . The installation program creates an image file for this. This image file contains the image of a data medium formatted with the BeFS file system together with the BeOS installation. The BeOS contained in the image file can be started with the BeOS boot manager bootman, which can be stored either on floppy disk or in the MBR, or with a start script from the file system that is already running (which, however , can cause problems with hardware detection ). The free “Personal Edition” was also supplied on the magazine CD by various computer magazines. As a result, the number of users increased quickly, but there was no commercial success.

For BeOS 5 the updates 5.0.1, 5.0.2 (only Professional) and 5.0.3 were released. Before Palm took over Be, there were rumors about a BeOS 5.1; however, this was never published. After the Be company was taken over by Palm, it was clear that BeOS 5.1 would not be released. Different variants based on BeOS 5.0.3 were created that contain additional drivers and software. Examples of this are BeOS Max and the BeOS Developer Edition. However, these distributions violate the license of BeOS 5 Personal Edition, which states that BeOS may not be redistributed in a modified form.


BeOS comes with various applications as standard, such as the NetPositive browser , a media player , an image viewer (ShowImage), an e-mail program (BeMail) and a web server (PoorMan). In addition, BeOS brings with it SoftwareValet, a program that allows you to easily install new software that is stored in appropriate archives with the extension .pkg .

There are also many different free and shareware programs, as Be was able to inspire free developers for BeOS at an early age. Examples of such software are AbiWord and BeZilla ( Mozilla porting).

In April 1996, CodeWarrior was an integrated development environment for BeOS. From BeOS 3 onwards there are also different software for BeOS from larger commercial providers, so there are two office packages for BeOS with BeBasic and Gobe Productive . In particular, Gobe Productive from former Apple Works Suite employees had very innovative approaches. Further software followed, such as the Opera browser . BeatWare offered several of its products for BeOS, namely the e-mail program Mail-It, the FTP client Get-It and the graphics program e-Picture. When the free Personal Edition of BeOS 5 was released, BeatWare announced that Mail-It and Get-It are also available for free. Adamation made one of the first home video editors, Personal Studio.

There were many other commercial programs, particularly in the multimedia sector. Video editing programs (VideoWave), animation software ( Cinema 4D ) or software for audio editing, such as Nuendo from Steinberg , were announced and some of them were also presented at trade fairs, but most of them never appeared in a final version. Ports from T-Racks and Groovemaker exist from the meanwhile established IK Multimedia, after the quality of the system was convinced at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt. The manufacturers were convinced of the overall superiority of the system, but the management of Be Inc. was unable to offer the necessary support for the software manufacturers. The strategic change of direction to BeIA was therefore the reason for most companies to stop development despite the presentation of the products on the BeOS at Cebit, the Musikmesse in Frankfurt or in Arnhem. At a developer fair in Frankfurt, however, the high latency and speed difference to Windows-based systems was clearly evident.


BeOS was originally developed for a multiprocessor system based on the AT&T Hobbit processor. The use of two processors was part of the company philosophy, the slogan "One processor per person is not enough" expressed this. This system already bore the name BeBox. AT&T stopped producing this processor while BeOS was still being developed . The BeBox was therefore newly developed based on the then still young RISC processor PowerPC . The first BeBox to appear has two of these processors of the type 603 with 66 MHz each. However, the design is very unfortunate, as the processor controller used can only manage two processors or one processor and its 2nd level cache. This problem was not completely solved with the second BeBox based on two processors of the type 603e with 133 MHz each. The system was later ported to Apple Macintosh and then to Intel-compatible computers.

When the BeBox appeared on the scene together with the first developer version of BeOS in October 1995 - it could only be ordered via the Be website - the geeks were targeted as the first target group. They should take the system and, with the support of Be, make whatever they wanted out of it. Compared to other system manufacturers, Be offered the developers better support, good contacts, and the developers' requests were quickly met.

At that time the system also appealed to many Amiga developers and users, many of whom were looking for a new platform. In May 1996, at the German Amiga meeting in Burlafingen, the DeBUG (Deutsche BeBox User Group, later the German Be User Group) was founded, and it still exists today.

In the summer of 1996, BeOS was traded as a candidate for the successor to the classic Mac OS , which was essentially due to the fact that the system now ran on Apple's Macintosh computers and offered the same functions that made the classic Mac OS a modern operating system were missing.

As recently as 1997 you could read on Be's website that BeOS was developed as an operating system that shakes off the old ballast and takes up the best from the world of Unix , Mac OS Classic and AmigaOS , even if some ideas from AmigaOS are very late - mainly under pressure from the developer community - were taken over. This included, for example, the " DataTypes " system known from the Amiga .

By giving up their own hardware (BeBox) in January 1997, the multiprocessor philosophy was a thing of the past, as multiprocessor systems were not common on Macs or PCs. But the system still runs on several processors to this day.

In 1998, BeOS presented itself with the Intel port as a completely new, multimedia-compatible operating system. This went so far that it was even claimed that the system was developed from the ground up for multimedia, even if multimedia was not an explicit topic for BeOS two years earlier. A lot had changed for the developer community as well. The pressure to succeed on the part of the manufacturer was palpable. Be proved to be very unsteady, and the frequent changes of goal had noticeable effects: in 1998, both the developer and user community had changed completely at least twice, and the system had repeatedly been discarded and redeveloped in many components.

However, 1999 looked like a successful year for BeOS, the system was gradually becoming more mature, and hardware support reached acceptable levels. However, the high hopes have not been realized, watching the large software manufacturers were reluctant to software , for example for text - and graphics processing to port.

The last version published under the direction of Be was BeOS 5 from the year 2000. This appeared both as a “Professional Edition”, which was sold commercially, and as a free “Personal Edition”, which was also published by various computer magazines -CD was included. This version greatly increased the number of users, but it was not commercially successful. Nevertheless, some companies from the multimedia sector had already announced porting of their products. Then, surprisingly, there was another change of course from Be: BeOS as an independent product was abandoned in favor of BeIA , an operating system for so-called Internet appliances. BeOS should only serve as a development platform for BeIA and only to a very limited extent - as required by the development of BeIA - be maintained and published. This meant that not only many users, but above all professional providers, turned their backs on BeOS - even before their applications were fully ported.

The company Be then had 2001 bankruptcy protection apply, since the business with Internet appliances was over so quickly as it had begun. All of Be's intellectual property was quickly sold to Palm and the development of BeOS was officially discontinued.

Follow-up projects

Haiku (OpenBeOS)

With the end of Be and the fact that Palm was not interested in further development, the development of Haiku (at that time still under the name "OpenBeOS" ), an implementation as open source, began . A bootable image of the first beta version of Haiku is now offered.


ZETA is a further development of BeOS based on its original source code and a proprietary , chargeable operating system that was discontinued due to poor sales figures and legal conflicts. It was launched on November 3rd, 2003 and was published by the Mannheim company yellowTAB until the beginning of 2006 . After its bankruptcy, Magnussoft published the last version, ZETA 1.5, at the beginning of 2007; it was already discontinued in April 2007.

When the main developer, Bernd Korz, publicly considered the release of the source text that had been created under his leadership, a representative from Access, Inc. , owner of the BeOS rights, spoke up and stated that Bernd Korz never had a license to use it of the BeOS source code and consequently ZETA is an illegal derivative . Magnussoft responded by "temporarily" removing ZETA from the market.


Based on the Linux kernel and an X server, BlueEyedOS tried to create a system under LGPL that was compatible with BeOS both visually and in terms of interfaces. Work on BlueEyedOS began on July 1, 2001 under the name BlueOS and was discontinued in February 2005.


Cosmoe was designed by Bill Hayden as an open source operating system based on the AtheOS source code , but using the Linux kernel rather than the original AtheOS kernel. It looks like BeOS. The aim of the project, however, was to make it source code compatible with BeOS.

Cosmoe is subject to the GPL and LGPL . The last version 0.7.2 was published on December 17, 2004. Project author Hayden stated in an interview in December 2006 that he had not worked on the operating system for a long time and that he would be happy if a successor would continue the development. In a posting dated February 6, 2007, he stated that he had resumed development. At the end of the same month, he also announced that the release of version 0.8 was imminent. However, this did not materialize, so that Cosmoe must be considered orphaned.


In 2008, ZevenOS took up the BlueEyedOS approach, at least visually, of using a Linux system as the operating system basis (details list of Linux distributions ).


Individual evidence

  1. BlueOS News
  2. IsComputerOn: Contact with Bill. (updated) , December 5, 2006 (interview with Bill Hayden) ( Memento of February 2, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Cosmoe Developer Seeks Successor , December 5, 2006
  4. Posting on ( Memento from February 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Topica Email List Directory ( Memento of February 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ZevenOS

Web links

Commons : BeOS  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files