Palm Buys Be, Inc.

Still trying to figure out how I feel about today’s news that Be, Inc. has been purchased by Palm. Or, to be more specific, Palm has purchased BeOS, BeIA, and has dibs on Be engineers – they didn’t actually purchase the company per se. But Be will probably close up shop once the sale is complete.

In a way, we were all prepared for this for a very long time now. We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it finally has. I don’t think that many of us thought that whoever bought the company would have big designs for the desktop OS, and Palm almost certainly is uninterested in doing anything on the desktop. More likely, Palm wants to beef up and extend its product line – make palm-sized devices more media-friendly, and possibly build appliance-like units for the home. No one has heard yet whether Palm has any plans for the desktop at all, but I doubt it.

This pretty much seals the deal – it’s the end of the road for BeOS as we know it. In a way, it’s been dead for two years. But now, barring a miracle or a surprise announcement from Palm, BeOS is really, really dead. I have to confess that there’s a part of me that just wishes BeOS would go away. It has left me exhausted and apathetic. Tired of waging a battle against ridiculous odds. Tired of the humming of betips.net in my office. Tired of trying to stand up and evangelize like a crazy old man with tinfoil in his hair ranting about the second coming. But another part of me still believes deeply in what Be is and what they’ve created. Believes that there is a way to best MS at their own game (without having to tread the open source quaqmire). Believes that there is no better desktop user experience, period.

I don’t think any of BeOS users are shocked, really. More like relieved to finally know where things are headed. The people who continue to use BeOS after this news are going to be the hardcore users only. Like the people who still use their Amiga boxes after all these years. I doubt I’ll become one of them. At this point, only the regular Byte gig keeps me hanging on and watching the news. If that falls away, I probably won’t be using BeOS anymore. The compromises have become too plentiful to outweigh the advantages.

More than anything, I think what’s sad about all of this is that it sends a message to the world : “Don’t bother trying to create a better desktop OS — it doesn’t matter how hard you try, how many engineers you throw at the problem, how much money you spend, or how many years you put into it. Microsoft owns that space and, worse, the public is totally complicit and fine with that fact. People will not stop using Windows. It is a losing battle.” It is unlikely now that anyone will ever again attempt what Be has attempted.

And that’s the saddest thing of all — the insidious ways in which the monopoly has wormed itself into the fabric of our economy and culture. The message that “resistance is futile” has been hammered home.

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