Operating system newcomer Be will launch two versions of its next multimedia-tailored operating system, one of which will be free.
The operating system is an alternative PC system tailored for digital multimedia environments. The free version of the BeOS 5, called Personal Edition, will be available for download on 28 March.
A fully featured version, BeOS 5 Pro Edition, will follow, with plans to distribute through a third party publisher in Europe.
Predictably, it is the free version that has attracted the most user interest, with the company claiming that since January nearly 100,000 users have pre-registered for the download.
Kirsten Ludvigsen, analyst at IDC, said that despite the figures, the company "faces an uphill struggle" in gaining exposure because digital multimedia remains a niche market.
"100,000 potential users is not a lot for a free download compared to the million or so registered in the first three months for Sun's Star Office suite," she said. "But if they are happy with a niche market then the figures are pretty good."
The free version of the BeOS 5 will be available on 28 March at free.be.com in an effort "to increase familiarity with the operating system", said a company spokesman. It can be installed as a file on Windows machines without users having to repartition their hard drives.
Prices have not been disclosed, but Pro Edition will include applications such as Media Player, Real G2, Macro Media Flash and Quick Time.
"These plug-ins in the professional version are attractive to businesses that want lots of audio and video applications over the web, such as graphic designers and musicians," said the spokesman.
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