Opinions? BeOS

Liam Proven lproven at gmail.com
Thu Mar 17 06:50:33 CST 2005

On Thu, 10 Mar 2005 20:13:19 -0800, Zane H. Healy <healyzh at aracnet.com> wrote:

> It would have been nice to see it continue, but after Apple bought
> NeXT rather than Be, Inc. they sort of started to run out of steam.
> I might be typing this on a dual 2Ghz G5 running Mac OS X, but I
> can't help but thinking how much better the system would be if it had
> been BeOS based, rather than OPENSTEP based.  The good thing about
> them buying NeXT was getting Steve Jobs back, but BeOS was a far more
> efficient OS.  And yes, I've run OPENSTEP and BeOS on the same system.

I know what you mean, but after a few years, and actually building up
an old PowerMac 7300/166 I got given for free with a load of bits off
eBay - paying money for hardware, most unlike me! - and actually
getting to *use* Mac OS X, I came to the conclusion that Apple did the
right think.

BeOS was gorgeous. My favourite PC OS ever. Everything I used to
really like about systems like Acorn RISC OS, Psion EPOC and so on, or

Like those early proprietary 16-bit and 32-bit OSes, BeOS was small,
blindingly fast, had a clean, simple GUI and came with an assortment
of useful apps. It had a small but competent portfolio of useful

Unlike most of them, it had networking and Internet capabilities built
in, supported memory protection, virtual memory and multiprocessor

And unlike any of them, it ran on cheap generic hardware,

What's not to like?

But whereas it would have made for a small and blisteringly fast Mac
OS X, which with a bundled or integrated copy of SheepSaver would have
happily run Classic MacOS & all its apps under the new OS, that's
*all* it would have made.

BeOS was unique. POSIX-like, but not Unix. Proprietary GUI but one
with no unique advantages. Traditional C/C++ development model.
Proprietary environment with all that that entails with programmers
having to learn it.

NextStep/OpenStep represented something different. Yes, all the
clutter and kludge of Unix, but:
 - a new, simple development system using Objective C, Interface
Modeller & a vast & comprehensive class library (arguably the best
development system and tools for GUI apps there has ever been)
 - deep thorough object orientation
 - based on Unix, so familiar to millions of existing programmers,
users and techies
 - based on /open source/ Unix, freeing Apple from the burden of
developing & maintaining the entire OS on their own
 - a solid open networking system build deep into the OS
 - designed, like BeOS, by former Apple engineers
 - unlike BeOS, commercially successful (in a small way) for a decade
in the open market on various hardware and software platforms
 - a new and revolutionary GUI based on Display Postscript (now
Display PDF, but it's the same difference) - one that offers
compelling advantages for designers, users and developers, with
powerful new capabilities, but that's already based on known,
widespread technology.

Up front, BeOS would have made a better successor Mac OS. NextStep had
to go through a lot of painful development to make it look and work
like MacOS and the result was initially slow and clunky.

However, /every/ successive release has made it sleeker and faster,
bucking the trend of every other OS in the industry.

But that's not what's important. What is important is that along with
bringing over all the Mac developers with Carbon, it brought in lots
of Unix developers with the Mach/BSD underpinnings, and tempted PC C
coders with a different dialect of C, and Java coders with good Java
support. Then to all of them it offered, /for free in the box/, the
most remarkably polished and effective GUI development environment
there is.

Getting programmers behind a new OS is essential.  It's paramount.
That, I think, was the basis of Apple's decision.

The result? OS X is by almost any standard the single most polished,
friendly, usable, attractive, flexible desktop OS on the planet, and
it's attracting lots of new and interesting software development. But
by the same token, it's Unix, so if you want to drive it with EMACS
and X tools from a /bash/ prompt, you can.

BeOS could never have been that.

Liam Proven
Home: http://welcome.to/liamsweb * Blog: http://lproven.livejournal.com
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