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It wasn't the free download of BeOS R5 Personal Edition that killed Be. It was Microsoft's strong-arming the PC OEM:s, the BeIA/etc focus shift and the subsequent departure of ISV:s and cancelling of ports of major software packages.
Would they have stayed in business longer had you and I purchased one or two copies of BeOS? I wish I had, but I honestly don't think it would have made much of a difference that late in the game. It was already too late post-R5-release. We should have bought more BeBoxen in 1996.
"had you and I purchased one or two copies of BeOS?"
I have my 2 copys, and you?
It may seem unfair but a lot of developers were beta testers and received the releases for free. I signed up around the first PowerMac release, prior to R3.
I did buy at least one copy. The BeOS Bible + R5 bundle, which I've since donated to my city library.