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"Be" Chief Declines Comment On Apple Buyout


Jean-Louis Gassee, the founder and chief executive of Be Inc, has declined to comment about newspaper reports that Apple Computer Inc is getting closer to buying his tiny computer company.

"I don't want to add anything to what's been said on the Net or printed in the media," Gassee said over the weekend.

The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the trade magazine MacWeek have reported for weeks, citing unnamed sources, that Apple is interested in buying Be to acquire its innovative software technology.

Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle, also citing unnamed sources, said Apple was closer to completing the transaction and would pay up to $100 million for Be, based in Menlo Park, Calif.

Be, founded by Gassee when he left Apple in 1990, makes a line of powerful desktop computers geared toward software developers and multimedia artists. The machine, dubbed the BeBox, features state-of-the-art multimedia capabilities.

Apple needs Be's software expertise to beef up its aging Macintosh operating system, which hasn't had a major overhaul since 1991, analysts said.

Apple this summer shelved a two-year effort to rewrite the Mac operating system. By acquiring Be, Apple could make up for the lost time, analysts said.

Apple officials declined to comment.

Last week, Gilbert Amelio, Apple's chief executive and chairman, told a gathering of investors at the American Electronics Association conference that Apple plans a new operating system by 1998.

"We have to find a way to implement an entirely new system," Amelio said in the speech. "I want to go all the way, we are going to go all the way and we have plans to do that."

Amelio did not elaborate on what the plans are.


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