In the wake of the announcement that Motorola will license the Be operating system (BeOS), the CEOs of Apple Computer and Be are arguing that the bundling deal will grow, rather than fracture, the market for the PowerMac.
Motorola will initially allow users to run both the Macintosh operating system (MacOS) and BeOS in some of Motorola StarMax PowerMacs, according to a Be official. However, Be officials also sayt the deal lays the groundwork for offering the BeOS as an alternative to the MacOS in the future.
"The idea is to grow the pie, then we'll worry about how to cut the pie," says Jean-Louis Gassee, chairman and CEO of Be and former Apple executive. "We are a Macintosh developer - we write software that adds value to Macintosh hardware, so if we do a good job this will sell more PowerPC hardware."
"[Be is] a Mac developer and we are all for them," says Gilbert Amelio, chairman and CEO of Apple. "I think that we are sort of in it together. And, of course, Motorola ... wants to help create a new market to sell more chips."
Under the agreement, Motorola has the choice of either bundling the BeOS as an additional CD-ROM with its StarMax line of PowerMacs or offering a dual boot option with the machines. Specific details of their plans have not been worked out.
While officials say a tight connection between the BeOS and the MacOS will grow the market, some observers contend that Be has larger ambitions. By porting the BeOS to the PowerPC and signing licensing agreements with system vendors, Be is positioning itself to challenge the MacOS more directly, particularly if Apple stalls on Rhapsody, the forthcoming MacOS based on the Next operating system, observers said.
Be's Gassee says as much.
"In the beginning the BeOS will be for the more enterprising customers - the risk takers," Gassee says. "If we do a good job, we will become more mainstream. We make it very easy for our partners to bundle the OS because we believe we have to make the effort because we have something to prove."
In addition to Motorola, Be has a similar agreement with Mac clone maker Power Computing. and is now trying to win the support of other clone makers, he says.
But until the base of BeOS applications grows, it will be a complement to the MacOS, says Gassee.
"Our operating system is not a mature operating system," Gassee says. "We do not have the many thousands of applications that you find on the MacOS, so we will position ourselves as a complement for some customers."
Gassee also feels the maturing of the MacOS may give the BeOS an advantage.
"I lived inside the MacOS and over time you have layers upon layers of software silt that deposits in an operating system over time. All operations systems become very big and very complicated and very slow," he says. "We are still unproven - that's the bad news. But the good news is that we have something that is smaller, faster and more modern."
Under the agreement it signed with Be, Motorola has several ways to offer its StarMax line with two operating systems, according to Alex Osadzinski, vice president of sales and marketing at Be.
The first and most straightforward is to bundle the MacOS machines with CD-ROM disks containing the BeOS, thereby giving users the option of installing either system, he says. Or Motorola may take the dual boot option in which users can choose either system at boot up time or they can fire up the MacOS while working in the BeOS.
The BeOS ships with an extension called the "OS Chooser" that will allow users early on in the boot up process to choose which system they would like to run. If they do not choose, the computer will default to the OS that was launched most recently.
In addition, the BeOS incorporates VirtualMac from San Francisco-based fredlabs Inc., which enables users to run System 7.x MacOS applications natively at the same time as the BeOS.
The value to users, says Osadzinski, is that they can exploit the audio/video capabilities of the BeOS while running System 7.x applications, such as standard office productivity applications, that are not yet available on the BeOS. However, Be ultimately expects to have a full suite of productivity applications.
"Three years from now virtually nobody will care about the VirtualMac," he says.