Almost twenty years ago, a little company called Be created the BeOS, a robust little system that was light-years ahead of Windows and the MacOS. But the BeOS never had a future--until now.
To understand its resurrection, you first have to understand the unfortunate history of the original BeOS, pictured above. In the 90s, the BeOS rambled from machine to machine. It ran on Mac clones, but Apple passed on the opportunity to buy the OS after opting to buy Steve Jobs' startup NeXTSTEP instead.
When Mac clones were discontinued, the OS was ported to x86, where it couldn't quite find a home thanks to Microsoft's bullying of OEMs like Compaq. It lived for a while as a net appliance OS, but was ultimately squashed. Its remains were sold to Palm in 2001 for only $11 million.
Now a group of Be enthusiasts have brought back the OS in a new iteration they're calling Haiku. They've been at work on the project since even before the company was sold, and the fruits of their decade-long labor--while not yet comparable to modern-day OSes in terms of hardware support--are showing real potential. ArsTechnica calls Haiku "pure poetry," and InformationWeek says it "embodies elegance." Why? It's more freely licensed than Linux, boots almost instantly, and more parsimonious in its design than the multi-layered OSes we're used to.
If you'd like to play with the Alpha release, you can download Haiku here. With as many Internet devices and baked-in open-source OSes as we'll see in the coming decade, there may indeed be room for BeOS after all.