It was never mean to Be, says Gassee

Apple Computer chose to buy Next Software because it has its sights set on the corporate market, according to the rejected suitor, Be Inc. CEO Jean-Louis Gassee. 'As a green operating system, we had absolutely zero qualification,' Gassee says. But he'll always be grateful for the exposure.

Apple Computer chose to buy Next Software because it has its sights set on the corporate market, according to Be Inc. CEO Jean-Louis Gassee.

"My perspective is that Apple sees in NextStep an opportunity to go into a marketplace that has been a perennial problem, [and that's] the enterprise market," he said in a dinner speech at a technology conference sponsored by Upside magazine and the Nasdaq stock exchange.

NextStep, Next's main software product, has been on the market for several years and has established links to the Unix sector.

"As a green operating system, we had absolutely zero qualification," Gassee said.

Be had been widely considered to be Apple's prime takeover target, but a combination of factors including Be's asking price of a reported US$200 million dulled Apple's appetite. "I think Steve Jobs took care of that," Gassee said.

Apple is paying $400 million for Next, which was founded and headed by Jobs.

"I respect Apple's decision," he added. "I certainly appreciate the exposure it gave us. If not, I certainly wouldn't be here tonight."

Gassee said he is optimistic about Be's future as a premier vendor of system software for multimedia developers and pointed to a recent BeOS licensing agreement with Power Computing Corp., a maker of Macintosh clones.

"If we do a good job, then we'll prove we're worthy" to be a partner with other hardware manufacturers, he said. "We're in conversations with all of them. We have to put on the knee pads ... and go beg for business, so we'll do that."

Be will focus on software and also will continue to make its PowerPC-based Be Box computers as long as there is a demand for them, Gassee said. "I don't see, in the long term, how we can compete" with companies such as Power Computing and Umax Data Systems Inc., he said.

Be sold about 2000 Be Box systems in 1996, he said.

Meanwhile, Be will port the BeOS to Intel Corp. microprocessors "if we see an opportunity," Gassee said in response to a question from the audience.

A Be engineer demonstrated the multitasking capabilities of the BeOS, as well as "Virtual MacOS," technology that enables the Macintosh operating system to run in RAM on a Be Box.

"I can't understand why Apple wouldn't want to pick that up," comedian Al Franken said in his monologue after Gassee's presentation. "Who wouldn't want to watch six movies on a rotating cube, while listening to bad music?"

Be, based in Menlo Park, California, can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.be.com/.

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