On Friday the 11th of March I went to CeBIT 2005, the world’s largest hi-tech fair held annually in Hannover, Germany. The fair covers everything from the Digital World and is expected to receive around half a million visitors this year. After an overview this report mainly highlights yellowTAB’s presence and their new Zeta operating system.Next to being of interest to consumers, CeBIT is also an important meeting place for businessmen, traders and tech experts, an event where people can participate in various lectures, workshops, seminars and conferences as well. I attended the fair with the Dutch ‘ICT platform’ together with a few dozen ICT professionals representing their companies from northern parts of the Netherlands. This was a pleasant and interesting experience for me, being able to exchange ICT-related thoughts and ideas during the trip and an after-show dinner!
Some highlights at the fair included some novel new consumer electronics being displayed, ranging from the very small to the ultra big! Such as for example Samsung’s small 7 Megapixel Camera phone or their huge 102 inch Plasma TV! Further there was a clear converging trend to be seen with regard to hand-held devices as was already initiated more than half a decade ago in mainly Japan. Snapshot-camera, music player, GPS navigation and many other functionalities are finding their ways into the new generations of smart phones. And like was expected a few years ago the functionality border between ‘phone enabled PDAs’ and ‘phones offering PDA functionality’ is fading rapidly. The Japanese giant NTT DoCoMo was showcasing their 3G mobile phone services which are already widely in use in Japan, including videophone functionality, allowing live streaming video communications, or their FeliCa ‘Mobile Wallet’ service which allows instant payments and identifications.
With regard to operating systems, as could be expected, the large OS solution providers Apple, IBM (OS/2 Warp), Microsoft, Novell and Sun (Solaris) were all well represented. Apple announced that the company has joined the Blu-ray Disc Association and Novell announced a mid-April release for SUSE Professional 9.3, but other than those few sparks there wasn’t hot news to report about.
Regarding the smaller embedded OS vendors, none of them seem to have made it to CeBIT this year. There was no sign of QNX Software Systems (QNX Neutrino), Symbian, Wind River (VxWorks) or even PalmSource (Palm OS), yet there were many exhibiting companies presenting end-user products using their operating systems.
There was however some interesting news with regard to at least one alternative operating system. A small exhibiting STB company called AHT Europe recently announced their support for the free operating system AROS. I was told by them that they intend to back this open source OS financially in an effort to speed up its development and use the OS for their future products. The plan is to port AROS to their PPC based STBs by hosting the OS on top of LinuxPPC first, simultaneously help speed up development (possibly by offering bounties), port over AHT Europe’s own STB software and then create a fully native version.
AROS was already a hobbyist AmigaOS3.1 clone project since 1996, but has been making slow progress compared to the commercially backed solutions, AmigaOS4 and MorphOS. Previously, already significant parts of AROS have been used for the development of MorphOS, for which the MorphOS development team contributed bug fixes in return.
But IMO the true highlight of the fair with regard to operating systems was yellowTAB’s showcase of its almost finished Zeta 1.0 operating system! (Read details) Zeta is based on the BeOS operating system originally developed by Be Incorporated. BeOS at a time was seen as a potential threat to Microsoft’s x86 desktop OS monopoly and for some time Be Inc was even worth over one billion dollars! But Microsoft allegedly hindered PC makers to co-operate with the company and eventually the company went out of business. Something similar was rumoured to have happened when Gateway suddenly cancelled their Linux/Amiga plans when they owned the Amiga company during the late 90s. Years later an ex-Gateway Executive even testified how Microsoft allegedly “bullies” PC Makers. So hopefully yellowTAB will have more luck with regard to its Zeta efforts!
I already intended to meet with the yellowTAB team at a small Fun
of Computing 2004 event, which was held a few months before CeBIT, but sadly yellowTAB cancelled its attendance just one day before and I did not know about this until arrival! But luckily yellowTAB’s CEO Bernd Korz made up for this quite a bit by giving me an extensive personal demonstration and answering all my questions for one full hour (minus some short distractions when various ‘promotion’ ladies in miniskirts walked by ;-)).
My general impression was that the OS is mature, stable and still offers the same nearly unrivalled (except by AOS4 and MOS) desktop multimedia performance and GUI responsiveness many people loved from their BeOS experience, this even despite an alleged lack of co-operation from PalmSource, which apparently still owns BeOS source code used for the Zeta operating system. But IMO the BeOS user community should embrace Zeta as being the BeOS @ version 6 the community has been waiting for, for so long. Also I believe there’s no need for the community infighting or any rival hostility between the different BeOS inspired community camps as there’s already a similar relationship between Haiku (formerly known as OpenBeOS) developers and yellowTAB as there was between AROS and the MorphOS team for some time in the past. In fact even more so, as some people behind Haiku are even fully employed by the company! IMO without some commercial backing the Haiku project will progress as slowly as AROS did, which still isn’t a complete clone of AmigaOS 3.1 as it was originally intended to be and that’s an OS originating from 1993 and development has been ongoing for nearly a decade! Now please excuse me, as I will have to play with the latest beta Bernd so kindly provided me with! 😎
World Cyber Games 2005
Hall 2, one of 27 CeBIT Exhibition halls
yellowTAB’s CEO Bernd Korz talking to an Opera representative
The yellowTAB Booth was drawing lots of attention
There was even a TV channel recording yellowTAB’s performance