BeOS 4, the latest version of Be Inc?s multimedia oriented operating system for Intel and PowerPC systems, will debut at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas next week.
Be is positioning its OS as a specialised environment for multimedia tasks such as editing video. It is designed for use in conjunction with, not instead of, Microsoft Windows, the company maintains.
The new release features better interoperability with Windows, including the ability to read and write Windows FAT16 and FAT32 file systems. Be is also offering client software to connect BeOS systems to Microsoft Network.
Another new feature is the Media Kit, which will allow users to perform a complex series of operations on streaming media in a simple way. For instance, video can be captured from an external device, filtered, compressed and saved to the hard drive in one step.
BeOS 4 also adds to the product's traditionally very limited list of supported hardware devices. The operating system will now support additional sound and videocards. Full support for Universal Serial Bus, however, is still lacking.
BeOS performance has been improved by 25 to 30 per cent over the previous release, Be claimed.
In recent months, BeOS has been eclipsed somewhat by the heightened media attention for another operating system, the open source Unix variant Linux.
Be was founded in 1990 by Jean-Louis Gassie, a former president of Apple?s product division.
For a while, BeOS was close to becoming the successor to Mac OS, when Apple considered acquiring Be in late 1996. But Apple finally opted for Steve Jobs? Next Software instead, and will base its Mac OS X on Nextstep. BeOS got a second blow when Apple axed the Macintosh clone market.
Be responded by moving its main thrust from the Mac to the Intel platform. The initial version of BeOS for Intel was launched earlier this year.
BeOS 4 will run on Intel or PowerPC based systems with a minimum of 16Mbytes of Ram and a 150Mbytes hard disk. It will not run on Macintosh systems based on a PowerPC G3. The operating system is priced $99.95, with an introductory price of $69.95.
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