Be has reported that its digital media operating system, BeOS 5.0 Personal Edition, has been downloaded by one million customers since its release on March 28.
The operating system, available for free on the company's Web site, has also been distributed on CD through several magazines inserts and other sites which offer free software downloads.
Opinions vary as to how the company arrived at 1 million downloads.
"It's hard to assess because it is almost impossible to know whether or not the download resulted in a use, " said International Data Corp. (IDC) analyst Dan Kusnetzky, adding that it is also difficult to tell if secondary downloads were part of the count. "Also, how do you determine whether or not it is a new user or a version upgrade?" he said.
However, Be chairman and CEO Jean Louis Gassée said that the count was very conservative.
Even so, Kusnetzky said 1 million did not make BeOS a major operating system and that it cannot be considered an alternative to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows.
But Gassée thinks that BeOS is and will be popular because of its simplicity.
"Linux is a great system but it is very complicated to install," he said, referring to the popular open source operating system.
In terms of whether or not BeOS is a viable Windows alternative, Gassée said that will depend on the results of the Microsoft antitrust lawsuit. The U.S. government wants to impose behavioral remedies on Microsoft aimed at opening competition in the operating system market and also has recommended that a federal judge break the company in two, with one entity focused on operating systems and the other on applications.
The free BeOS 5.0 Personal Edition resides on the hard disk as a single file and is compatible with Intel-based PCs. It is also capable of reading most audio and video formats and comes with an Internet browser.
The more sophisticated Professional Edition requires a licensing fee priced by publishers. It includes features such as encoding support for Cinepak, Indeo 5, P-JPEG and MP3, among others.