To Be free or not to Be free

Version 5 of the BeOS desktop operating system is scheduled for release this quarter, free to non-commercial users, according to Steve Sakoman, Be's cofounder and newly appointed chief operating officer.

"In order to promote our technology, we decided to make a free version," Sakoman said. "We are doing this to raise the visibility of the company."

Users who register with Be at free.be.com will be able to download the software for free. Be will also work with publishers and other vendors to distribute commercial versions of BeOS 5 through retail channels, the company said.

The decision to give away BeOS 5 will mean Be's revenue for 2000 will take a major hit, since the company's desktop OS sales constitute around 85 per cent of its revenue, Sakoman said. "We're forgoing short-term revenues to pursue a bigger, longer-term opportunity."

That opportunity is named Stinger. The remaining 15 per cent of the company's 2000 revenue will come from the anticipated sales of Stinger, Be's software platform for Internet appliances, Sakoman said.

Compaq will install the Be software platform on Compaq's Internet appliances, under an agreement later this year. Stinger will be formally rolled out later this quarter, according to Be representatives.

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