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Palm To Purchase Be's IP 336

There's been a lot of rumours swirling around an imminent buyout of Be's IP given their current cash situation. But I wouldn't have thought of Palm as a potential suitor - but a story in the subscription only area of today's WSJ indicates it to be true. Hopefully a non-pay service will get the story soon - but looks like Palm is trying to beef up its software side, and wants to get some Be's engineers.Update: 08/16 02:16 PM by H :Looks like C|Net has the details - 11 million USD in Palm stock for the purchase of Be.
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Palm In Talks To Purchase Be's Assests

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  • I am glad that BE won't deisappear without someone showing interest. It would be a shame if they did.
  • Since Palm's main interest is in Be's PDA software department, will the rest (or at least some) of Be's software (i.e. BeOS) become open-source so that there would be yet one more free OS?

    After all, the OS community responds gratefully to any presents it is given, and BeOS's commercial value is limited, particularly now.

  • I suspect Palm bought BeOS for the programmers, not the software. But if they did buy it because they want to put a BeOS derivative on future Palms (and they need a more powerful OS than they have), it just shows again how much in love the Palm culture is with proprietary systems. I think with this strategy, they are going to face a difficult battle in the marketplace, as they are competing against Java, Linux and WinCE (which is, of course, proprietary as well, but often not viewed as such).
  • As somebody else has pointed out, this will be great PocketPC competition. Just what Palm needs - a new OS that's scalable, lightweight, and has a lightweight GUI. I hope they port BeIA to the ARM and introduce it as Palm 4 next year...Palm needs something new and shiny fast.
  • I saw this one coming a mile off. No matter what kind of Moore's law breaking processors Aki and the Deep Eyes Squad might have been using in the future, there is no way the current Palm OS could have ever scaled up to such a nice holographic GUI without some serious help.

  • by krokodil ( 110356 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:36AM (#2112817) Homepage
    Note the wording:

    "acquiring the assets and intellectual property of software "

    That means that they are not buying the company, just IP and assets. That means that Palm will not be accepting liabilities, like support contracts, employment agreements, etc.

    In scenarios like this, victim company is quickly closed and some employees are fired and some are given options to join new company.

    This is not such a good deal as ouright purchase. I hope I am wrong.

    • So, this is something like what NVIDIA did to 3DFX? But, how useful is the BeOS to the Palm community? I mean, they are targeted for different audience and I fail to see the deficiency of the existing Palm OS that would require features from BeOS (mostly multimedia and fancy colors) and until the day multimedia stuff saves power and relieves me from eyestrain when viewing movies from a small device, it won't be very useful.

      Perhaps, to fight the colorful PocketPC's media player?

    • That means that they are not buying the company, just IP and assets. That means that Palm will not be accepting liabilities, like support contracts, employment agreements, etc.

      I get it! That means Palm only wants Be's soul, not her body? Right?

      Then it's an evil deal! Be trades its soul with money! Oh my! Someone stops them!

  • Surprising? No... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pev ( 2186 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:04AM (#2113496) Homepage
    Well, it's only surprising to us that have been following Be for several years as it was expected to be Sony (Their only current major customer) that buys them.

    As for Palm, well they've been in the market for a new kernel for a while now, and BeIA being very slick is perfect for them. Its established (technically, not commercially) and deals exceptionally well with real time media and networking - the kind of things Palm want to build upon for appeal.

    The real question is where does that live the desktop OS that showed som much promise? As expected of a slashdot reader, I';ve got to say 'I hope it going to be made open source/GPL/Free/wibbleware' or similar words. Well, who knows... I just hope it doesnt vanish away... Press release here [].

    • Well since Sony make Palm devices (Clie), the next step could be SONY buying Palm+Be...
    • The real question is where does that live the desktop OS that showed so much promise?

      Well, Palm might licence it out to companies doing web pads. I doubt Palm themselves are about to try and go into the web pad market: they have too much competition in their base market to divide their focus.

      Open sourcing BeOS might be nice, too. I bet their kernel has lots of goodness that could go into, say, Linux.

      Jon Acheson
      • Maybe some of the UI design could migrate over to Linux too. :)
        • Heh, yeah, and maybe they could end up bankrupt like those guys at Eazel who thought it would be a great idea to take the UI skills that they learned from Apple and try to make loads money from the Linux market. As the psycho dad in "Heathers" said, "Showed those fucks." :)

  • How pissed off do you think they'll be when they find out they paid millions for
  • by stikves ( 127823 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:29AM (#2118093) Homepage
    [begin irrelevant]

    Have you noticed that most of the OS vendors are trying to be UNIX like.

    Take NT for example. With 2K it introduced many "new" concepts like "mounting", "symbolic links", and "telnet daemon". With Cygwin [], it becomes a very good "development" environment.

    BeOS, QNX and alike are trying to be (semi) POSIX compliant from the beginning.

    [end irrelevant]

    OS'es need three basic things: development environment, applications, and drivers. Surely BeOS did not lack in terms of first two. Because it was able to run GCC and many other free software

    But BeOS surely failed in driver support. Mine and my friends' Be adventure was short because of driver issues.

    The conclusion is: Since there is (almost) no driver issue on PDAs, BeOS may suit very well on them. I do not know how much Palm integrate from Be kernel, but they will surely use Be applications and development environment. With the addition of the PalmOS emulator (currently downloadable from their site) we may see many free software development on *nix for Palm.

    • OS'es need three basic things: development environment, applications, and drivers. Surely BeOS did not lack in terms of first two. Because it was able to run GCC and many other free software

      Well, kind of... What "killed" BeOS was the combined lack of software and drivers. Since it was supposed to be *the* Multimedia OS, drivers was naturally very important. You can't call an OS multimedia superior without supporting the newest and best multimedia HW.

      But another very real problem was that there were no complete software (multimedia) packages. No Logic/Cubase, no Photoshop, no Illustrator, no Dreamweaver/Frontpage, no Director, no Premiere... Hell, not even a fully functional webbrowser...

      Without this stuff it was probably kind of hard selling the OS as a professional development platform for multimedia designers (the presumed buyers).

      And of course... There was no MS Office... (ordinary buyers)
    • I'm not so sure about the second one there. For the longest time Be didn't have a decent web browser (which is sort of a reverse-killer app, if you don't have it your platform is dead). In fact although they were Posix complient (at least mostly) there are still a lot of apps that won't complile without a bit of tweaking. Last time I checked (this is 4.5 days or so) there were quite a few applications ported over, but they still had a long way to go.
      • Actually, NetaPositive is the best porn browser out there. Popups, java, active shit, and javascript don't work so no cascading browsers of doom!

        Oh well, it was a fine OS; It's feel is still untouchable. What's really weird is that I got my new Quicksilver G4 delivered on the very day that Be, which is running as the primary OS on my old computer, gets sold (ie: today!). How serindipitous.

    • This is a great move for Palm. It will be trivial to support current PalmOS applications running on a StrongArm version of the BeOS.

      The BeOS should scale downward nicely to StrongArm-based Palm devices and it's one of the few operating systems in the world that truly understands the power of pervasive threading. (Linux, Windows, and MacOS X threads are a joke compared to the BeOS)

      If Palm had any balls, they would open source the BeOS for use on desktop-class machines just to piss off Microsoft. I'm sure a lot of users would like to run the same operating system on their handhelds as their desktops, especially as their handhelds become more powerful.

      The only thing Palm really needs now is some good handwriting recognition software. They really need to buy Calligrapher in order to make their handhelds useful to a larger number of people.
  • by Thag ( 8436 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:10AM (#2119321) Homepage
    The Palm OS road plan, as far as I understand it (and I have no inside contacts whatsoever) is for Palm OS 5.0 to be far more multimedia-capable and powerful in general than preceding Palm OSs were. In addition, Palm OS 5.0 will run on new ARM-based hardware, giving it lots more processing power while retaining Palm's superior battery life. Existing Palm software will probably be run under emulation.

    I can certainly see the Be folks helping out in the multimedia arena. I wonder if they'll do any work on the user interface side? I kinda hope not, since I like the simplicity of Palm OS.

    Wow. Talk about unexpected. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Apple.

    Jon Acheson
  • I'd like to see Be+Palm OS run on PowerPC, as BeOS used to. I think that a low-power PowerPC (which already exist) would be much better than some ARM.

    When you think about it... Palm OS looks more like BeOS than any other OS out there. For example... that tab in the upper left corner.

  • The future (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stew77 ( 412272 )
    Well, this is the future how I'd like to see it:
    Palm takes BeIA in order to compete with the PocketPC/WindowsCE platform and possibly licence BeOS for devices like Edirol and Tascam make them or let Sony build HARP-devices. BeOS will remain as the development platform for BeIA, I think it ain't that easy to migrate the complete development environment to Win2k. Palm will make BeOS available for free just like you can get the PalmOS development tools for free now. In order to have broad acceptance for that development platform, Palm will be forced to keep BeOS up to date with support for the latest hardware, like Kyro or PIV.
    Let's just hope the best
    • I hope you are right

    • Re:The future (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I never understood hardcore BeOS users. They're always blindly optimistic. There could be a headline stating "Earthquake Hits Be, Inc. Headquarters, All Employees Dead" and somebody at BeNews will post "Maybe they'll rise from the dead. Let's hope for the best." And no matter how many times Be screws their developers and kicks their users when they're down, they still remain unflinchingly loyal.

      At this point, I don't understand how anybody could possibly think that BeOS development isn't dead. Be has said time and time again that there will be no further updates to BeOS. And even if BeOS becomes a development platform for the next generation Palm device (which is very unlikely IMHO), what makes you think that you're going to see the kind of updates a desktop user wants (BONE, OpenGL, app server fixes, support for new hardware). The updates the BeOS user community has been waiting for are irrelevant for a development platform for embedded devices.

      My feeling is that BeOS is stone cold dead - Palm will stick to Windows for their development platform. I believe that they probably acquired Be primarily for the experienced engineering staff. Any code from BeIA that ends up in a future Palm device will probably be unrecognizable to a BeOS user. If the best deal they could get was just $11M in stock from a company on the brink of failure, you *know* that nobody values your existing IP very highly.
      • Emotional cloudmaster: "No. BeOS is cool. Please make updates so someone will write useful software for it. This makes me sad." Reasonable cloudmaster: "Eh, BeOS never realy had much software support, and the company made many many stupid descisions. I'll just keep using Linux and hope the good people from Be can help PalmOS with some usability/programmability advances. This makes me happy."
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:02AM (#2121847)
    Doubtless Palm was after not the desktop BeOS, but the BeIA [] internet appliance operating system. BeIA has, to date, only been sold to Sony for the eVilla [] gizmo, but that probably won't earn Sony much money. But if Palm can combine BeIA with their own PalmOS, they could really give PocketPC [] a run for the market.
  • Apple (Score:5, Funny)

    by well_jung ( 462688 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:02AM (#2123110) Homepage
    So what will Apple do with Be when they buy Palm?

  • Wahoo! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lally Singh ( 3427 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:15AM (#2130026) Journal
    So does this mean that we get SMP palms with little LED bargraphs on each side of the display for each CPU?
  • Be started as an alternative to the Mac, aimed at multimedia content developers. They didn't want it, as the Mac did almost everything they wanted, and they used high end workstations for the rest.

    It was then re-purposed as a Windows alternative, aimed (again) at multimedia content developers. Who stayed with the Mac, for reasons noted above.

    The only other people who might want Be were the ones who wanted an alternative to both Windows and the Mac. We went to Linux, because it had both freedoms, and more apps.

    • If the Rumors were true, Apple didn't offer Be enough cash for BeOS when Apple was shopping around for a new kernel. If Be had sold at a reasonable price instead of holding out for a sweetheart deal, Be would be the core of OS X.

      The x86 port and then BeIA were simply last ditch efforts to reposition Be in an entirely different market than it was designed for.

      IMO, the only thing that could have kept Be viable was to have dumped the OS and to have kept the hardware. Commodity priced PowerPC boxes running LinuxPPC could have made Be a household name in the workstation market.

  • enjoy here []
  • For those of you who don't remember, When Apple was interested in Be in 1996, Jean-Louis Gasse asked for 400 millions, It wasn't worth it so they went with NeXt instead :)
    • That was five years ago when Be was still working on brand-new Power Macs (Apple hasn't given Be the needed info to run on G3's or greater) and Apple was looking for a stable, strong, multimedia OS to become Rhapsody.

      I always preferred NeXT to Be because Jobs, even though he can be an ass, is preferable to Gasse's constant complaining about being downtrodden and calling himself a victim because of busniess decisions he himself made. I hope Palm can do with Be what Be wasn't able to do with itself....

    • No. Be asked for about $250 million. Apple chose instead to purchase NeXT for some $400 million. (And then made a snarky comment to the press along the lines of, "We went with Plan A instead of Plan Be.")


  • by UM_Maverick ( 16890 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:12AM (#2132436) Homepage
    11 million in Palm stock, huh? What's that, like 5.8E21 shares at this point?
  • renaming (Score:2, Funny)

    by thedm3 ( 460988 )
    Palm could use the B in Be in rename their flagship product 'the Balm' and they could use such trendy phrases as: 'it's the balm of your digital world' 'balm is the beat-all of all your needs' 'with a palm and balm the uses are endless!' everyone knows that they've just overused the word Palm and now it's common everyday blah.. it doesn't cull out a "what is that" anymore.
  • by standards ( 461431 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:05AM (#2132733)
    This is a great move for Palm - with all the handhelds being powered by a more and more powerful OS, Palm needs a real jolt in this area.

    Palm's OS will be easy to emulate in BeOS, and BeOS is well suited to small platforms. For $11 million, this is a bargain of an investment for a company that needs a new OS.

    Apple did it a few years back with NeXT, with stellar results. I forsee this propelling Palm ahead... perhaps not way ahead, but ahead none the less.

    • by Xibby ( 232218 ) <> on Thursday August 16, 2001 @12:43PM (#2143952) Homepage Journal
      It's not so much the OS upgrade that's a good move, it's getting the components that you need to compete with PocketPC and their check box marketing. (ie...a side by side comparsion of a PocketPC and a Palm, showing that the PocketPC has a faster processor, more colors, more memory, etc. and leaves out the good featurs of Palm like incredible battery life, a decent/innovative interface for wireless devices, and applications up the wazoo. Do you really need streaming video to your Palm?

      MS uses this same check box marketing scheme with Xbox vs. PSX2. Look, we have more video memory and processors, etc. Nevermind that we're dealing with completely different archecuter designs.
      • > Do you really need streaming video to your Palm?

        Well now that I've touched streaming video, I'll never go back to ASCII [] Video/Static low quality, low color images again... Bring it on full color full movie... :)

  • by johnjones ( 14274 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @06:23PM (#2133703) Homepage Journal
    what is intresting is the differant hardware that Be has had to run on

    AT&T hobbit processor - starting blocks

    Power -- IBM 32 bit chip

    PowerPC -- IBM 32/64 bit chip

    dragonball -- MOT trying to beat ARM

    intel 586 -- plain intel arch when it all seemed to be going fast

    Geode -- NatSemi trying to get MOT market

    and now
    ARM 5TE -- the guys from cambridge who didnt have any money (they do now)

    what is intresting about this is what would you compile with,
    for the hobbit it would be their own compiler
    then power again a custom or gcc
    then PowerPC either relie on Power stuff or use IBM compiler
    IA use GCC
    Geode as well dragonball use GCC or custom
    ARM will Proberly use GCC or custom proberly greenhills Multi2000

    the point is to go through all this would mean alot of it will be standards with little or no complex features used

    makes porting to ARM a breaze

    PalmOS compatability going to ARM is going to be an emulation job anyway

    why not emulate all of existing API + processor and start with something new ?

    what do you think ?


    john jones
  • by kdgarris ( 91435 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:04AM (#2134148) Journal
    I wonder if Palm wants to use the Be kernel for the next generation of ARM-based devices. Note that PalmOS already runs on top of a different kernel (AMX, I think), licensed from another company.

  • Register Story (Score:2, Informative)

    by billstclair ( 470179 )
    The Register has the story at []. Palm will pay $11 million in stock. Be's shareholders still have to approve the deal.
  • by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @10:58AM (#2135877) Homepage
    If one failing company buys out another failing company, does it make a sound? :)
  • I was hoping a company with some vision and balls would buy Be. You know a company that has no problem entering markets that it has a zero marketshare in. A company like Sony. It's really really depressing to walk into a computer store and see only two types of branded computers. Windows and Mac. I was vaguely hopeing Sony was going to buy Be and turn it into a Windows killer. I beleive they are the only company, other than Apple, that have the ability to get consumers to buy a computer that doesn't have Windows on it for home use.

    Right now the market is in horrible shape. PC OEMS are nothing more than Windows distributors and Apple has a near monolopy on not being Microsoft. It would be nice to get some fresh blood in the industry.

  • A few notes. (Score:5, Informative)

    by 11223 ( 201561 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:21AM (#2139268)
    First, everone's favourite fearless leader, JLG, will be in an "advisory position" to their OS group, hopefully having some input/control as to the future of the PalmOS platform.

    Secondly, Palm doesn't defecate on developers. Be did, despite JLG's comments. Let's hope this turns out better for us developers.

    Thirdly, Be does have existing BeIA contracts, and it's possible that Palm would consider continuing to market BeIA to IA developers as a means of bringing in more money (but with the Palm name attached). What is the development platform for BeIA? Why, it's BeOS. They either need to port their development platform over to another OS (unlikely) or continue BeOS at least for developers of that.

    Lastly, this isn't a buyout. Palm bought Be's *assets*. Be as a company is still around, and a note in their press release said they retain the right to bring suits, *including under antitrust law*. You can all speculate as to the target [], esp. considering what they did with Compaq.

    • How did JLG do developers wrong?

      • Re:A few notes. (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        JLG treared developers very well at first - at times Be engineers would ask for / offer help on projects. When 4.5 came out most people who had developed applications commented on how quickly their copies showed up.
        After the company went IPO they never really seemed to stop the media blackout. Many developers took that hard.
  • From the BeIA FAQ... []:
    What are BeIA's hardware requirements?
    We draw from the "PC clone organ bank." BeIA runs on x86 architecture (Intel, National Semiconductor, AMD) and Power PC processors. Device vendors can choose from a number of systems with a variety of add-ons. BeIA requires a minimum of 8MB of persistent storage (such as CompactFlash) and 32 MB RAM on a single-processor machine like the National Semiconductor Geode GXM chip, and can run on multiprocessor systems with hard disks and Open GL acceleration with a multichannel audio card.
    That's quite a bit more than current Palms and almost more than most PocketPCs. And keep in mind how slow PocketPCs are... part of that is Wince^H^HCE, but part of that is trying to do an awful lot on what is basically an embedded device.

    ObBeSlap: anyone notice that the 'Product' button on the Be site navbar doesn't do anything?

  • How will this affect slashdot's icons? Can you imagine the merging of the BE and Palm Icons into one? :)
  • So they bought an OS and development tools for whatever Palm turns itself into. OK Dragonball is dead long live ARM. We all thought this would free up Palm the hardware company to use SymbianOS which is a whole shitload better for wireless apps than PalmOS. That left Palm the software company to errrrr.... pound sand. They don't own Symbian and shortly no one NO ONE will want a Dragonball OS unless it' to simply suck royalties from Sony, Handspring and Handera/TRG. So they had to go after a general purpose OS they could use to differentiate themselves. Why not Lunix or BFD you ask? Well if it was so easy someone would have had more than a funky demo by now. Sure the LinuxDA distro is sort of maybe not quite here but as far as development tools? Shucks Mabel, it looks like yer gonna hafta roll yer own!!!!!!!! So Be makes sense: you get the base of an OS you get tools and you get some experience writing apps. Sounds like a better business model than the one they had. I wonder if they can execute on that?
  • Be has been marketing itself to the internet appliance market for sometime now. Perhaps Palm feels it needs to upgrade it's user interface to keep up with WINCE. Not to start a war, but the palm interface is crude and not very attractive. I can't figure out why it has taken them so long to support colors on the interface.
  • Awesome! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mattr ( 78516 )
    Palm gets fantastic multimedia capabilities and unix, Be gets cash, a new hardware platform with a ton of market share, and becomes de facto presentation unit for a palm.. who needs a PC?

    Maybe we'll get light tablets with smooth video, wireless, device connectivity, and GPL software in the hands of the public.

    We (might) get unix drivers for all those little hardware doodads that will plug into the palm.. If SD devices can roll out much larger memory capacities I bet this will give Sony's memory stick vision a run for the money. It's basically 200 companies (in SD, pushing SDIO) against the Sonies. Hmm this could all be a war of whose batteries last longer. If so Sony's way ahead.

    • Palm's market share is falling like a stone.

      Palm's stock price is falling like a stone.

      You'd hope that someone that'll be in business in 3 years would have bought Be. Like Sony or Apple or IBM. But at the rate that Palm is tanking, I doubt they will be in business by 2004.
      • ...but only because they've overextended themselves. (In contrast, Microsoft is years away from overextending themselves because they have so many other ways to provide income.) However, the Palm name is still well-recognized and appreciated. Think of all the apps available for the PalmOS. Think of how "PalmPilot" is still a casual name for any handheld computer, despite the fact that Palm hasn't made any "Pilots" for a couple of years. Now imagine a full-color, fully-interactive OS for a color handheld or web tablet with the Palm name branding it. Be's name couldn't make that sell. Palm's name could. Microsoft could sell it better, of course, but (TabletPCs notwithstanding) they're still not quite there yet. And neither Sony nor Apple nor IBM is really in the handheld/portable market, while Palm has been about nothing but. If anyone can make the BeIA a success now, it'd be Palm. (Whether they will or not is open to speculation.)
        • The Sony CLIE is awfully nice, though. I saw the high-resolution screen on the colour version and immediately fell in lust. It actually makes the screen pleasant to read instead of blotchy as in the older IIIc.

          Too bad it doesn't have built-in Mac connectivity, although there is a $29.95 kit for that.

    • Re:Awesome! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeffrey Baker ( 6191 )
      I don't understand your statements about Unix device drivers. A driver for BeOS is completely unlike a driver for any other operating system.
      • Re:Awesome! (Score:2, Informative)

        by stew77 ( 412272 )
        Not really. Although BeOS is not based on Unix despite other claims, the drivers work somehow similar. A Be engineer once stated on the dev mailing list that it'd be possible to port XFree86 drivers in a couple of hours. As for sound and network drivers, just like in Unix they are mapped to device files with regular open(), read(), write() etc functions.
  • stock (Score:2, Informative)

    by Frederic54 ( 3788 )
    When I submitted the news this morning, Be stock was at 46, now it is at 19, well...
  • I turned off Score +1 and turned on anonymity, and the settings seem to have gotten stuck! This post is to test the phenomenon. My apologies for the OT-ness to all concerned.
  • by Zues1 ( 265572 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @12:16PM (#2157872)
    Okay okay, Enough about the technology being exchanged, From the sounds of the article, we as stock holders will get screwed? If Be is only selling its technology, whats to happen to the stock? As owner of both beos and palm stock, I am way confused here. Could someone with knowledge about such things please post?
  • A really cheap buy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Great_Geek ( 237841 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:41AM (#2158276)
    Note that this deal is going for something like NEGATIVE 50% premium over market price (stock fell 50%). Also that Be had something like 5 million in cash (as of last quarter). So the Be management/owner must have been really pessimistic. Palm bought it really cheap.
  • hidden agenda (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pivot ( 4465 ) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @11:42AM (#2158277)
    This might possible be a way for palm to separate out its software palmos side into a separate company without paying a lot of tax, which they would otherwise have done if they had to split palm inc into two companies.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"