Be Inc created BeOS in the mid-1990s as a super-modern operating system, but it failed to catch on. Over 20 years later, the open-source Haiku OS project is picking up where it left off, and there’s a new beta release available.
The Haiku project has been developing an open-source continuation of BeOS for years, based partially on some BeOS code, but much of it has been built from scratch. Haiku R1 Beta 4 is now available, as the first major release in a year and a half. It might be the most significant upgrade yet, as it makes Haiku much more viable as a typical desktop operating system.
Haiku is a modern take on BeOS, and has a lot in common with the long-dead operating system. There’s a “Deskbar” at the top-right corner for managing tasks and applications, a consistent design across all applications, and even support for BeOS applications (on the 32-bit x86 build). It also has remarkably low system requirements — it will boot with an Intel Pentium II CPU and 384 MB RAM, but the developers recommend an Intel Core i3/AMD Phenom II with 2 GB RAM for the best experience.
Haiku R1 Beta 4 has improved support for HiDPI screens, a new optional “flat” system theme with fewer gradients, more Wi-Fi drivers imported from the OpenBSD and FreeBSD projects, AVIF image support, a new NTFS driver, 32-bit EFI bootloader support, and hundreds of bug fixes. On top of all that, Haiku has made significant strides in application compatibility.
Haiku only has a fraction of the software available on Linux, Windows, Mac, and other platforms, partially by design — it has a focus on native software built with C/C++ and Haiku’s own Interface Kit. The new beta significantly expands that with a working GTK3 port, which allows applications like Inkscape, GIMP, and GNOME Web to run on Haiku. The blog post explains, “this provides an unfortunately non-native but largely functional web browser for Haiku for the first time in many years, with “just works” status for major websites like YouTube and others.”
Even better, Haiku now has a port of the WINE compatibility layer, allowing some Windows applications to run without modification. Haiku said in its blog post, “it is somewhat limited at the moment, being available only on 64-bit Haiku and only supporting 64-bit Windows applications. It is also a bit inefficient performance-wise at present due to some limitations in Haiku, but that will likely improve with time as Haiku gains more I/O APIs.”
Haiku is available to download for 32-bit and 64-bit x86 PCs, and it works well in a virtual machine like VirtualBox. There is ongoing work to support ARM devices, but it’s too experimental to use right now.