BeOS: The Mac OS X That Might Have Been

BeOS User IconIf OS/2 is the Windows that could have been, BeOS is the MacOS that almost was. In the mid 1990s, a former Apple executive named Jean-Louis Gassee left the company to build his own computer platform. The result was a computer called the BeBox that ran an operating system named BeOS. BeOS was way ahead of its time, incorporating multi-threading technology that made programs run faster on multi-processor computers. Unfortunately, this also made the platform difficult to develop for, since programmers couldn’t easily port their code from Mac or Windows. But this isn’t what killed Be.

Be vs. NeXT

Back in 1996, Apple was in big trouble. After several years of development, their Copland operating system still wasn’t ready for the public. In order to compete with Windows, they needed a new OS stat. So they called up Jean-Louis Gassee and offered to buy out Be. Gassee gave them a ridiculously high price, so they turned to Steve Jobs’ NeXT, Inc. instead. Jobs’ NeXTstep operating system became the basis for every Mac and iOS device today, and Be became a footnote in tech history.


Be Inc. soon folded and sold out to Palm, an early maker of handheld computers. Unfortunately, Palm was soon caught in its own death spiral, and BeOS was abandoned completely. Still, the operating system has its share of supporters. After Palm bought about Be’s assets, a small group of users got to work on an open source successor named Haiku. And while this modern day BeOS hasn’t exactly caught fire, it’s still an intriguing piece of software that shows that Be, Inc. was really on to something, even if it was never a commercial success.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs regularly at

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. February 9, 2017

    […] have also known about the many geniuses behind them: Steve Wozniak, Andy Hertzfeld, Susan Kare, Jean-Louis Gassée, John Lasseter and Jony Ive just to name a few. These are just some of the people who have made the […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.