By: Tom Nadeau firstname.lastname@example.org
IBM seems to have an interesting way of marketing OS/2. It's not busting down
the front door with an all-out blitz; it's quite the opposite. IBM seems to be
marketing OS/2 by simply making it easier to find a home.
For example, let's examine the three main features of an operating system.
First we have the API (Application Programmer's Interface). This is the piece of
an O.S. that allows people to write programs that solve everyday problems. This
is one place where OS/2's superior ease of design and elegant structure have not
been able to overcome the monopoly conditions of the PC software marketplace. The
OS/2 API cannot simply travel over the net and plop itself down on some Windows
or Mac computer, enabling OS/2 native applications to blossom and prosper. The
OS/2 API is wedded to the foundations of the O.S.
Those foundations are the second part of the O.S., the "matrix" or
"base" upon which the O.S. resides. OS/2's memory management, multithreaded
kernel, and crash protection reside in this part of the system. The O.S. foundation
is the part that is tied to the hardware; among other things, this anchoring layer
includes the OS/2 device drivers.
The third and final component of the operating system is the GUI or Graphical
User Interface. OS/2's superior Workplace Shell GUI has been faced with the same
growth-choking limitations of the monopolized marketplace as the rest of the O.S.,
meaning that endusers have had to endure third-rate user interfaces and limited
GUI choices. The OS/2 WPS has the same limitation to growth as the OS/2 API --
it is tied closely to the object-oriented core of the O.S. and therefore can't easily
navigate around the Web and dance before the eyes of the world of Windows or Mac
Each of these three operating system components -- API, core, and GUI -- has
an impact on making OS/2 the excellent operating system that it is. But in a monopolized,
commoditized marketplace, the only alternative to the current distribution channel
(preloads -- preloads are nothing more than an O.S. distribution channel) is the
Web. This means that parts of OS/2 which don't travel well on the Web are subject
to substitution or modification to enhance survival chances.
For example, Java is a Web-oriented API. By making Java the main API for OS/2,
IBM is allowing the Web to become an alternative distribution channel for a piece
of OS/2. Another example of the Web-driven marketing of OS/2 is the fact that kernel
updates and device drivers (elements of the foundation of OS/2) are made available
over the Web. Finally, the growth of the browser interface (almost supplanting the
GUI itself) allows a new GUI paradigm to travel the Web and bypass the preload distribution
What does this all mean for OS/2? It means that the *pieces* of OS/2 are going to be available via the Web, even if the entire O.S. as a whole is currently jammed by the monopoly conditions and can't move up in terms of market share. The current IBM approach is what we former NASA people nicknamed the "lifeboat concept" -- take something which has a questionable future, carve it up into pieces, and sail the pieces toward a safe harbor, to be later reassembled upon arrival. Just maybe the WPS can become a web-oriented survivor, just as the Java API already is. This leaves only the issue of bringing the core of the O.S. safely to port.