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Some of the criticisms had some validity - once upon a time. "OS/2 is hard
to install and configure"; well when I first bought OS/2 - Warp 3, that is
- yes, it did take longer to install than DOS and Windows... and I kept running
into problems trying to install it over DOS and Windows until I said "the hell
with it" and reformatted the partition! Once set up it needed far less tweaking
than the Windows 3.11 it replaced! It was also several times faster and capable
of real multitasking! Warp 4 was much easier to install. OK, maybe configuration
can be a problem - but I've seen people struggle with Windows 9* too!
"There are hardly any apps" moans one windophile. I would like to see
some serious comparisons between the apps available for OS/2 and WIndows. Apart
from games - which, to be fair, Windows 95 does have the edge on - how many Windows
apps are just redundant entries, competing versions, or just plain useless. On the
other hand, how many of the many excellent object based programs written especially
for OS/2 can be found in Windows versions? New OS/2 apps are appearing all the time.
Many are free, quite a lot are shareware, and there are some shrinkwrapped ones
too. Of course, to the many people who came new to computers some time after Windows
95, the shiny, brightly coloured boxes have an attraction that cannot be equalled
by downloaded zip files requiring a little skill - not to mention an understanding
of what one is downloading. If you are buying shrink wrapped software from a store,
you can hold the box and let your techno lust get the better of you. A sales person
can lean over your shoulder like some demon and whisper seductive mumbo jumbo in
your ear. Or you can read the review in the computer press. And what reviewer is
going to encourage an operating system that does not run the kind of software that
they normally review? This brings me to another, persistent myth... One of the correspondents
told how someone on the inside of IBM had told a friend of his that he had actually
seen the alpha of Warp 4 running Windows 95 programs. What was more, on speed, stability,
and memory management Warp 4 could blow WIndows 95 out of the water. IBM were all
ready to release Warp 4 complete with "better Win32 than Windows 95" when
they suddenly decided that - horror of horrors - if they did that, OS/2 development
would die in favour of Windows 95 development - even though Warp was bound to outsell
Windows 95. Oh yeah? So IBM dropped support for Windows in order to encourage third
party OS/2 developers? Sure they did, just like they installed NT on Quad XENIX
servers so that people would buy expensive, overpowered Quad Xenix rather than cheap
486s which would do the job just as well - providing they were configured with OS/2.
There were lots of other contributions. One writer suggested that IBM dare not
market OS/2... dare not flag up their success with OS/2 sales in case the DOJ ruled
that IBM was a viable competitor and that could only mean that Microsoft was not
a monopoly. The trouble is that IBM's weak marketing goes back a long way.
Central to IBM's philosophy is that the PC is a passing fad. They got their fingers
burned on this one quite badly. Conceding - belatedly that the PC was more than
a toy for the rich they attempted to regain lost ground by bringing out a new standard
- the PS/2. But they were too late, the market inertia saw to that and we are still
stuck with the cobbled together heap of junk that is the PC. IBM shrugged its shoulders,
and concentrated on what it at least felt it did best - servers, mainframes, and
specialised software solutions because, deep down, it hates the desktop. Call it
my own crackpot theory if you like, but I really think that the suits at IBM believe
deep down that, one day this fad for itsy bitsy computers any Tom, Dick or Harriet
can use will blow over and everyone will go back to mainframes, servers and thin
So, after all the rumours and the name calling has died down, where does this
article leave us? Is it just a blip? Is it some statistical anomaly? Well, not quite.
Some of it can be explained as the result of people upgrading to Warp 4 in readiness
for 2000. They could, by the way, simply upgrade Warp 3 by adding fix packs, but
I suspect a lot have decided they may as well give Warp 4 a try. I wouldn't be surprised
if the subsequent fall off in 1999 was due in part to the anticipated arrival of
Warp 5 client. Why buy Warp 4 if 5 is on its way? Maybe...
I was not surprised to hear that sales of Warp client were better than IBM expected.
There is, I feel, a gradual shift in mood. People are willing to give something
else a try. Microsoft has outrun its welcome. At one time, even when sales of OS/2
were at their highest, going against the tide was unthinkable. I remember telling
people I was dropping Microsoft, removing it from my PC. Some expressed incredulity.
How would I be able to manage without Microsoft? Now, the same sentiment draws little
comment other than, perhaps, a mention of Linux. People understand Linux - or think
they do. Linux does not have a big company behind it... just Linus Torvald's garden
shed. The idea of Linux beating Microsoft has something of David and Goliath about
it. It may never happen, because Linux is vulnerable in a way that OS/2 is not.
If Microsoft wanted to defeat the Linux dream they need only release Microsoft Office
for Linux and cram it full of predatory add-ons. Then in no time at all Suse and
Red Hat are competing with MS Linux. At least Bill Gates is hardly likely to legitimate
OS/2 by selling Word for Warp!
I think we are seeing a gradual sea change in computing. The first whiff is coming
in news reports like the one in zdnet.com. When I first bought OS/2 back in 1995
I felt alone, deserted, isolated and - well, laughed at, sometimes. Why did I persist
and even buy the expensive upgrade to Warp 4? Because it worked, and the alternatives
were awful! I just did not want to go backwards, that is all. Since then, I have
seen the OS/2 community grow in strength and purpose - even if we lost some dead
wood along the way. If the support, organisation and camaraderie we have today had
been there in 1995 I think we might have given Windows 95 a run for its money. Now
we have a developing set of applications that Linux and BeOS and even Windows users
might envy. I believe Warpstock '99 in Atlanta, will show the only really viable
alternative to Windows. The chance to seize the future will be before us then. We
must take it with both hands.