Newswise — It was the summer of 2011, and computer programmer Michael Phipps had a problem: His favorite operating system, BeOS, was about to go extinct. Having an emotional attachment to a piece of software may sound odd, but to Phipps and many others, BeOS was vastly superior to every other computer operating system available. But the company that had created BeOS couldn't cut it in the marketplace, and its assets, including BeOS, were being sold to a competitor.
So Phipps decided to re-create BeOS completely from scratch, but as open-source code. An open-source system, he reasoned, can't disappear just because a business goes belly up. Of course, creating an operating system is a huge job. But for the dozens of volunteer developers who have worked on the operating system, called Haiku, it has been a labor of love.
Of all the alternative operating systems in the works, Haiku is probably the best positioned to challenge Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. For both users and developers, the experience of running Haiku is amazingly consistent, and like BeOS, it is fast, responsive, and efficient. What's more, Haiku, unlike its more established competitors, is exceedingly good at tackling one of the toughest challenges of modern computing: multicore microprocessors. In the May 2012 issue of IEEE Spectrum, Ryan Leavengood takes a look at why that is, how Haiku came to be, and why today's operating systems don't really perform as well as they should.