BeOS is simply the most incredible operating system I've ever used. The interface is beautiful and well-designed, programs are responsive and snappy, it boots insanely fast, it comes with a command line, etc. etc. Unfortunately, it was never very popular, and as such it did not have the driver support or number of applications necessary to make it practical for everyday use. Which is a shame, because BeOS had one of the nicest programming APIs out there. BeOS Personal Edition came with a few applications, including Media Player and the NetPositive
web browser. Like the OS itself, most Be applications are very clean, simple, fast, and responsive. The NetPositive browser it starting to show its age, although it is still quite a capable browser. However, people wanting a more up to date browsing experience should have a look at BeZilla
(www.bezilla.org), a port of the Mozilla
browser to Be. BeZilla tends to be somewhat buggier than equivalent versions of Mozilla on more common platforms, though it has kept up well.
Sadly, Be Inc. is no longer in business. Going against Microsoft in the x86 desktop market proved to be too much, and after a short excursion into the Internet Appliances market with BeIA, Be was purchased by Palm, Inc. Even the www.be.com domain is now up for sale, and what remains of the company web site is now located at www.beincorporated.com. However, it seems that many of the fine engineers from Be are now working on PalmOS 6. Hopefully we'll see some of the revolutionary ideas from BeOS show up in newer handhelds and PDAs.
For those who wish to try out the BeOS, versions of Personal Edition are still available for download, although not from Be's site. The latest official release was 5.0.3, although there was an unofficial release called "Dano" with was supposedly based on leaked beta code and includes a number of additional utilities. A number of development efforts have started since the Be buyout to create an open-source BeOS clone. Some of these include Blue Eyed OS and OpenBeOS. Another OS similar in concept to BeOS is AtheOS. Recently Bill Hayden created a fork of AtheOS with APIs to match that of the BeOS. Whatever happens with these development efforts, it's always nice to boot up BeOS once in a while and see what OSes could, and should be like.