Editor 28-May-00

"OS/2 is Finally Dead!" - (#732 of a series)

How often must we hear that "OS/2 is finally, totally, this time for sure, really dead"? Apparently every 4 to 6 months (for about 6 years now).

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This month's articles about OS/2's demise are even more shrill than usual, claiming IBM has issued an actual cut-off date. They all seem to be based on an article by Nick Farrell that misinterprets an older IBM document and relies on an unnamed "IBM spokesman".

Yes, the document has a cut-off date, but so did it's predecessors. These documents get renewed periodically. To quote Esther Schindler, who has followed IBM issues since 1992, the author "didn't understand IBMese". "It's a foreign language that only sounds like English."

Keep in mind there are several clans within IBM that really would like to see OS/2 dead, and others that simply don't know much about it. These all include an "IBM spokesman" or two.

Mr. Farrell's interpretation is directly contradicted by several OS/2 policy documents released in the past few months. It is also contradicted by the fact that IBM has signed contracts with major clients requiring them to continue to "support and develop" OS/2 for at least another 7 years. It is also contradicted by common sense.

IBM derives about a half billion dollars a year in OS/2 related sales and services - not chump change even for a company the size of IBM. OS/2 sales were recently found to be running about 34% over IBM's projections. Check the Large OS/2 Customer List to get an idea of who's using OS/2. You'll find some surprises there.

These big customers aren't going to let IBM push them around, either. One of the largest (thought to be either Deutsche Bank or Bank of South Africa) recently told IBM in no uncertain terms that if they are forced off of OS/2 by poor support, they will eliminate all IBM products and services, worldwide.

This weekend, volunteers at the Phoenix OS/2 Society are putting on WarpTech , a three day OS/2 technical convention. IBM has sent 7 OS/2 technical representatives and 2 more from the Lotus OS/2 development group. This hardly seems like abandonment.

In the marketplace, OS/2 appears to be strengthening. Everyone who would abandon it for Windows left long ago. The remaining user community is quite stable and has been gaining strength since it realized it was on its own and couldn't rely on IBM. The amazing success of Warpstock these last three years demonstrates this. Warpstock is purely a user community production. WarpTech, in session as I write this, looks like it's going to be a great success as well.

Availability of OS/2 software continues to improve. There are excellent native packages for most business uses ( Papyrus is now available in English, closing the Desktop Publishing gap), but also new software developed in Java runs better on OS/2 than on any other platform. Further, it is very easy to port software from Unix or Linux to OS/2, so many important new Linux titles appear under OS/2 a few months later.

Yes, OS/2 users are keeping an eye on Linux as a potential alternative, but lets face facts: Linux may be a worthy competitor to Windows, but it's no OS/2. Linux, like Windows, is based on older technology and can't fully support an object oriented user interface like OS/2's Workplace Shell.

Yes, IBM really does want OS/2 users to move to "platform neutral" Internet based applications - but they want everyone else to go there as well. This is what IBM sees as the future - a declining importance for PCs and growing importance for large, centralized servers serving simple network appliances on the desktop. IBM, by the way, makes large, centralized servers.

As far as getting all those big banks, airlines, and major parts of IBM itself ported to Java within 2 years, if anyone at IBM really thinks that's going to happen, he's smoking the same stuff Microsoft's legal team is on. The 7 years IBM has already committed to is probably way too short for that.

Andrew Grygus

More OS/2 information on this site:
IBM's OS/2
Operating System Choices
OS/2 News

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