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Haiku (finally) reaches alpha

Filed under: Uncategorized — mgrusin at 5:20 pm on Monday, September 14, 2009

haikuIt’s taken a while, but Haiku, an open-source project to replace an orphaned operating system called BeOS, has finally reached alpha stage.  To understand why this is exciting, you need to know a little history:

BeOS was an extraordinary operating system available in the mid-90s.  Lean, modern, media-savvy, and blazingly fast, it was a joy to use.  BeOS went through a number of evolutionary stages, running on proprietary, then Apple, then PC hardware; but each effort ran into brutal anticompetition tactics from both Apple and Microsoft.  (And to be fair, BeOS suffered from poor marketing of an admittedly difficult-to-market product.  Why should you buy something that comes “free” with your computer, even if it is mediocre, if it means giving up the benefits of ubiquity?)  In desperation, the company (Be) changed their focus to “internet appliances” instead of general-purpose desktop software, but this failed when the dot-com bubble burst.  Despite heroic efforts within and outside the company, Be went bankrupt and was sold to Palm (which did very little with the BeOS technology), and a small handful of BeOS revival efforts eventually faded away.

Except for one, the Haiku project.  Unlike some revival efforts, which used illegally stolen code, or proposed creating Linux windowing systems that just looked like BeOS, the Haiku project rewrote BeOS from the ground up.  Because they didn’t have access to all the minute details of the real BeOS internals, Haiku is not binary-compatible with BeOS.  But it IS source-compatible (existing code can be recompiled to run on Haiku), and has the same great look and feel that made BeOS such a pleasure to use.

It’s a valid question as to whether it’s worthwhile to try to revive orphaned operating systems, especially for desktop use.  There’s definitely a critical mass where the number of users vs. the amount of development feed each other; below that limit an OS is not likely to survive.  But there’s something to be said for a healthy ecosystem requiring diversity, in both the natural and computer worlds.  Without competition, the few remaining choices become stagnant and bloated.  Sometimes something revolutionary is needed to keep everyone on their toes.

Via OSNews.com

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