Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

February 1999

[Previous Page ] [ Index] [Next Page
VOICE Home Page:

View From the End (User)

The Anti-Trust Trial and Its Effect on OS/2

By: Don K. Eitner (

Anyone who hasn't heard of the Microsoft anti-trust trial must have been heavily sedated throughout 1997 and 1998. It's quite possibly the most important trial since AT&T was busted up two decades ago. The future of the PC software industry, both consumer and corporate, may be riding on this case. If Microsoft is allowed to continue tying sales of its applications to sales of its dominant operating system, then no other developer stands any significant chance of making a name for themself, creating or expanding markets, or toppling Windows as the operating system of choice among computer makers (OEMs) and developers.

Just for a moment, let's presume that Microsoft is found guilty on all charges of wielding its monopoly in operating systems to corner other markets ranging from office software to internet software to internet content. Unlike most presumptions which begin this way, let's not look at what is then to be done with Microsoft, but what might be possible for IBM's OS/2 operating system.

As OS/2 users and developers, we've made our choice in the face of adversity, to the usual smirks and wide-eyed looks of our friends and family, and to the bewildered looks of employers who don't understand anything that doesn't appear on the cover of the mainstream computer press. Why have we made this seemingly bizarre choice? Surely we cannot expect great profits from developing solely OS/2 applications nor can we expect to land any but a small handful of jobs working with computers in any fashion (increasingly needing to know MS Office 97, IE4, and FrontPage regardless of how often they fail, produce poor results, or require complete system upgrades just to run at an excusable speed). Usually we've chosen OS/2 because it's not only the most technically sophisticated consumer OS currently on the market but it's the easiest to use.

Combining technical features of a corporate UNIX with a familiar and flexible graphical user interface (GUI), OS/2 proudly serves the purpose of every operating system -- to provide an interface between the user and the computer hardware which leaves neither end of the spectrum unfinished. A user very rarely needs to understand the internal workings of the hardware in order to use it with OS/2 as they would with a UNIX variant such as Linux or FreeBSD. At the same time, OS/2 is not 90% user interface with a shaky, flaky twenty year old excuse for an operating system handling the hardware.

What Could Be

With the legally found guilt of Microsoft, OS/2 could very well have a new chance at life. First and perhaps most importantly, the general public may become aware that you cannot look simply at what the developer says about its own products and that other operating systems DO exist for the PC. Secondly, assuming some action by the court to level the playing field not only for applications but for operating systems as well, OS/2 is the only currently available consumer-capable OS which is fully stocked and ready to go. BeOS is still sadly lacking hardware support, even moreso than OS/2, and Linux is still far too complex for the Jones'es next door.

Also, considering OS/2's ability to handle the still-used (more than you might think) DOS and Windows 3.xx programs, a clever marketing campaign targeted to move the thousands of WinDOS users (businesses as well as consumers) to OS/2 could result in millions of dollars in profit for IBM. This was tried briefly in 1994-5 and was successful. IBM killed it too quickly and failed to even properly market it at the time. One would hope they've learned from the mistakes of the past ... one would hope.

Now, since those Win16 applications are typically aging not-too-gracefully, and with the field leveled to a point where developers don't feel an incessant need to rapidly advance their releases to keep up with the Microsoft war machine (marketing department) it's more than possible that OS/2 could see a few new developers as well as a few old favorites such as Corel, Opera, TrueSpectra, and Netscape. This renewed interest in "alternative" operating systems could also mean increased revenue for OS/2's existing, struggling, software developers to enhance their product offerings and make them more viable across the industry.

But this all falls upon IBM to take the initiative and give a damn about anyone other than Fortun 500 corporations. IBM who seem content to rake in the cash selling support for what they well know to be an inferior, clumsy, and unstable product known as Windows.

What's Likely to Be

The market for support is far more lucrative than the market for product because there's next to no investment needed to simply support ... until Microsoft decides to foreclose on these lucrative markets and internalize everything as they have done in previous ventures.

With Microsoft more or less out of the way after an anti-trust breakup, there would still be those millions of Windows systems to service and support and, besides, there are other operating systems that would be willing to pick up where IBM decides to drop OS/2 in the mud they've pulled it through for the last four years. What does IBM care if Be Inc. or Red Hat step in to take the industry by storm? It's not as if they'd be taking marketshare away from IBM's products, and IBM could certainly sell support for these (because there is no such thing as problem-free software). IBM can feel content to fulfill the American Dream -- to let all their innovation and all their manufacturing slip away to other companies and become a once-great corporation now resigned to be the consumer and pay a few handymen to take wrench and screwdriver to products when they break.

There's nothing quite like burning out as a footnote in history.

Note: I'm hoping this will light a fire under IBM's hind section, not discourage OS/2 users.

Coming Next Month
In-depth look at Peter Nielsen's latest PMView 2.0 image viewer/editor for OS/2.

About The Author

Don Eitner has been an OS/2 user since 1995 and has maintained The 13th Floor website since 1996. There he keeps an ongoing list of as many currently available native OS/2 applications as he can find ( which was awarded 3 A ratings, including an A+, from SCOUG ( He has been writing monthly articles for the VOICE Newsletter since June, 1997 and was elected as Secretary on the Board of Directors of VOICE in April, 1998.

[Previous Page ] [ Index] [Next Page
VOICE Home Page: