Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

March 1998


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View From the End (User)

I Spy From the Corner of my Eye

By: dON k. eITNER (

With the 1998 Winter Olympics over, I'd like to reflect on an unusual occurrence I witnessed during them--an occurrence which, even more oddly, has not ended yet--IBM are actively marketing OS/2 again.

Oh sure, it all started with the "OS/2 Is Great For Running Java" trend, progressed through the e-Business stage aimed at corporations, and is currently running along with the notion that if OS/2 can handle the world's most watched sporting events (scoring, record keeping, and serving up the information immediately to news commentators) then it's more than capable of handling your corporation's networking needs; but the advertising is there nonetheless. What amazed me most was that this marketing was not kept to a minimum on only business-related websites and tech journals. More than a few times I've seen these OS/2 Warp ad banners gracing the pages of Browserwatch, the NoNags file archives (of only Win32 applications) and industry magazines from Ziff-Davis and C|Net. These are all places where people in the home and SOHO markets go to get news about the computer industry, keep up with the DoJ vs Microsoft case, and ask questions of tech-oriented people about their new Packard Bell system which isn't running quite right.

The single most aggressive OS/2 marketing campaign in years is upon us, and it makes me feel pretty good, until I remember that the ads, despite being located in places where SOHO users will see them, are aimed at corporations who might be wanting to implement WorkSpace on Demand but who aren't too interested in the standard Warp client as we all know and love it. I'm not quite sure, but I detect something sinister (maybe not sinister toward OS/2 users but toward the alternative operating systems made by that other big software company in Redmond) lurking just under the surface. It's entirely possible that, with the massive public and industry outcries against MS these past few months, IBM are seeing their best chance in years to get OS/2 back into the public eye and the pages of industry magazines. People have never cried out so forcefully or in so many numbers for a viable alternative, and IBM has had that alternative all along--now it's just time to start selling it with renewed vigor.

Of course I could be full of hot air, but the number of advertisements floating around lead me to believe otherwise. For the sake of argument, let us look at the possibility that IBM are indeed trying to abandon the home market entirely in favor of the Server/WSoD market for corporations.

What would become of OS/2's home and SOHO markets? Chances are they'd continue to grow steadily for several years. With OS/2 regaining its good name in the media for being the OS that kills NT's widespread acceptance before it's too late (the media are unlikely to talk of the freeware Linux OS in this manner even though it too is having a hand in this already) smaller businesses might be more apt to see that OS/2 is a wise investment--"if the world's largest banking firms use it for its speed and stability, why not me?" Add to this the first truly viable office suite for OS/2 in years--Lotus' soon to be released SmartSuite/2, Domino web server, and continuing product lines from Sundial, and you've got yourself a good argument in favor of OS/2's SOHO market. This still leaves the home market to the wolves, however.

This is where game developers from PolyEx and Stardock step in. Stardock still seem quite interested in providing games for OS/2--Links, Entrepreneur, and the Galactic Civilizations II Gold Edition either having been released last year, having been released this year, or being readied to be released this year. PolyEx, who made a decent name for themselves with Vigilence on Talos V and the Wordup Graphics Toolkit/2 are scheduled to release a new title for OS/2, with BeOS, MacOS, and Rhapsody ports soon to follow. The game is called Hopkins FBI and is a port of a DOS based game in French. These ports, however, are being redone in English. For the people who get their kicks now by blood and guts games like Duke Nukem 3D and Quake, Hopkins FBI is just what the doctor ordered. I saw a demonstration of it (the DOS version) at last year's Warpstock and I must say I've not seen a more putridly violent game in a long time. This is definitely not something that would appeal to IBM's corporate customers, but with it running natively on OS/2 systems, a lot of people at home can show it off to their friends as proof that OS/2 isn't running too far behind the pack for adolescent games development.

Then there is, of course, the recently released (as an alpha level test) Win32-OS/2 converter. So far it's little more than a converter for Quake II, but this alone is ample evidence that the project is capable of doing what it was made to do--convert Win32 applications people use into native OS/2 applications. With this, you won't have to keep relying on Win95 or NT to do your work or to play your games and use OS/2 only as a hobby. We chose to use OS/2 because it was the best choice at the time, because it's fast, stable, and not bound to Microsoft's historically proven tendency to change standards at a whim to force mass upgrades. With Win32-OS/2 you can still run OS/2 for all those reasons while using the applications your boss and your kids say you have to use. Expect to see a lot more support for Win32 applications come out of this project within the next year.

For internet access, OS/2 users everywhere should be pleased as punch (however pleased that is) about the Opera web browser being ported to OS/2. It's currently under development as an Open32 based port (like SmartSuite) but the people doing the port have said this is mainly for a short time-to-market and the product will become more OS/2 enhanced over time. One definite possibility here is to build in a hook to IBM's Java Virtual Machine (supposedly the fastest and most compatible JVM in the industry at the time of this writing) which would kill one of the biggest complaints of Opera as a non-Java capable browser. This is the first good news for OS/2 users who browse the World Wide Web as it gives us a viable alternative to IBM/Netscape's eternally delayed Communicator/2.

Last but not least, Netscape's decision earlier in this year to release the source code to their next version of Communicator as freeware under something similar to Linux's General Public License which could prompt a lot of new development of interesting applications. This sort of code could be used to create HTML compliant word processors/desktop publishing systems (hook it in with the Smack! labeling program and you might really have an industry contender on your hands), HTML based help file systems, more online and offline web browsers that keep up with the most modern standards of HTML and JavaScript instead of lagging with the ancient WebExplorer DLLs, desktop enhancers similar to what Microsoft are feebly trying to do with Internet Explorer on Win98/NT5, and more.

Yes indeed, OS/2's home and SOHO markets look pretty good from where I sit, even though at times I do still voice concern and doubts about IBM's handling of my favorite operating system. While we may not pick up five or seven million new users next year, the viability of using OS/2 stands to gain significantly from recent developments and it could come to pass that OS/2 users will stop being labeled as fanatics and operating system religionists by those who worship at the altar of the OS that is not an OS.

Lotus - (
PolyEx - (
Stardock - (
Win32-OS/2 project - (
Opera Software - (
Netscape - (


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