In October 1995, Be, Inc. unveiled its first (and last) computer, the BeBox.
Be was founded in 1990 by Jean-Louis Gassé, former manager of the French Apple subsidiary.
For almost 5 years, 12 engineers from Apple, NeXT and Sun designed the BeBox and its operating system, BeOs. The total design cost was about US$9 million.
BeBox hadware was based on a dual PowerPC 603 C.P.U. running at 66 MHz (later 133 MHz). The motherboard was not really innovative but featured a large range of Input/Output ports, including IDE and SCSI HDD interfaces, standard PC card slots, MIDI, audio, infrared ports plus a special GeekPort for hardware experiments.
The Be Operating System was also developed from the ground up. It aimed to be an alternative to the "Heavy weight" Windows and Mac OS's, which were handicaped by backward compatibility hardware and software issues.
BeOs was a clear and clean multi-processor (up to 8), multi-threading, multi-tasking, GUI-based operating system, optimized for digital media management.
The first BeBox machines were mainly intended for use by software developers, BeOs was delivered with Metrowerks CodeWarrior and C++ languages.
In spite of its numerous advanced features, the BeBox never met the success expected by its designers, mainly because it was compatible with nothing else in the computing industry. Less than 2000 machines were delivered between October 1995 and January 1997, when production ceased.
In 1996, BeOs was ported to Apple PowerPC machines but Apple eventually preferred the NeXT basis for its future Mac OS X. Two years later, BeOs ran on Intel machines.
Because of the small size of the company and the competition from much larger competitors, the Be adventure finally ended on Novembre 2001 when the company sold all of its intellectual property and technology assets to Palm. Just before this happened, J.L. Gassé offered for free the lastest version of his OS (R5) to Intel PC users.
Nowadays, Although marginal, BeOs is still alive, and new releases and updates are regularly announced by the BeOs community.