IBM closes the book on OS/2

Friday, July 1, 2005 by Draginol | Discussion: OS Wars

I used to be an OS/2 zealot. You hear about Mac bigots and Linuz zealots, well, let me tell you just how bad of an OS/2 zealot I used to be -- I can recount various key moments in my younger life based on their proximity to the release of IBM's OS/2 2.0 (March 31, 1992).

"When did you and your wife meet?" is a common question.  My brain pages through the records and goes "Ah, it was just after the release of OS/2 and therefore it must have been in Spring of 1992."

Birthdays, anniversaries, whatever, I have trouble remembering.  But OS/2 2.0's release date is burned into my mind.  And for the subsequent 6 years, I devoted nearly every waking hour to making OS/2 succeed.  It wasn't about money. It wasn't about business.  It was a cause. OS/2 was my cause. It was a better way of doing things.  Some people get wrapped up in ideologies. Other people go on religious crusades. I was on an OS crusade.

And we lost. Badly.

Another date I remember well was Fall of 1996.  That was when Microsoft release Windows NT 4.0.  And within a year, the OS/2 market died. Microsoft's effective FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) combined with IBM's unwillingness to strongly back OS/2 made it ripe to be toppled over by Windows NT 4.0 which, while not as good as OS/2 Warp 4, was "good enough" and had good industry support.

By 1998, our once thriving company was laying people off and struggling to survive.  And I wasn't a 20 year old college student anymore.  I was 26, married, with a young son.  I had responsibilities to my family and my employees.  We limped our way into the Windows market, tail between our legs.  Nowadays, we're a pure Microsoft shop.  .NET solutions across the board. Microsoft SQL.  Microsoft Office. Our company makes a great demonstration of Microsoft solutions now.  Which is pretty ironic since we were once OS/2 zealots.  I'm not a Windows zealot today.  I'm not even a Windows advocate really.  It's just business.

The romanticism of OS technology has warn off and there's nothing as relatively cutting edge as OS/2 was back then.  So now I don't really think of the OS choice much beyond market share and what makes good business sense.  Now it's about the software WE make.  I am still dedicated to a cause -- making stuff that enables people to use their computers however they want.  And I want to make software that is cool and useful.  That's where software like Object Desktop and now ThinkDesk comes in.

So today IBM and Microsoft announced that they're closing the books on that uglyness that was OS/2.  Almost 10 years after Windows 95 was released, Microsoft is paying IBM off to not sue them over all the "unpleasantness" that Microsoft was involved in to ensure that 95%+ of you are using Microsoft Windows instead of IBM OS/2.  We'll never know if we would have been better off if OS/2 had won out instead of Windows.  But at least IBM got to recoup some of their costs for trying.

 

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starkers
Reply #1 Friday, July 1, 2005 11:49 PM
Yeah, It's a truly sad thing when consumers have their options reduced by a monopoly that was created by slimy and covert deals. Anyone with half a business brain knows that any market is healthier with viable competition, for consumers and producers alike. So what's wrong with Bill Gates? He'll never spend his profits in a multitude of lifetimes. What deplorable things greed and world domination are.

I know what you mean about OS/2, had it myself in a beaut black box that was rather classy. Sadly, my needs outgrew it over time, an upgrade was not viable, and I passed it on to my son, who still has it. But yeah, one has to wonder how far OS/2 would have come with a fair go
John Galt
Reply #2 Friday, July 1, 2005 11:58 PM
ah.. the good old days of 2000 line long autoexec files in OS/2. It was such a step forward!
OS/2 died because it failed to support 32 bit windows applications (effectively) and of course anything IBM touches in the consumer market turns to dust in a hurry (PPC is a good example)

Sorry, but as with Linux, I'm not into config files. I'm a hard core computer user, the whole deal, but if you ask me to edit a config file, I'm out of here. I develop all day long and I resent having to ever open a web.config file or XML file. I shouldn't have to and that complexity, combined with IBM just not getting it when it comes to consumers, and IBM not providing 32 bit application support is what killed OS/2. Even with all of it's complexities, Windows NT4 was so much easier to maintain and add hardware to and use on a day-to-day basis that it wasn't even in the same league... and hell, it only took them what? 3 versions before they had some sort of application launcher and you didn't have to go looking all over the place for the exe of the program and then use some archane thing that sort of was like a short cut and put it on your desktop or somewhere by hand... wow, it was so great. For the same reasons that Linux is great. NOT (to either of them).

I just saw a linux distro today that has a device manager that's graphical. Still crappy, but at least it's a device manager. They've almost caught up to the ease of use of Windows 95! Congratuations!
John Galt
Reply #3 Saturday, July 2, 2005 12:06 AM
Yeah, It's a truly sad thing when consumers have their options reduced by a monopoly that was created by slimy and covert deals. Anyone with half a business brain knows that any market is healthier with viable competition, for consumers and producers alike. So what's wrong with Bill Gates? He'll never spend his profits in a multitude of lifetimes. What deplorable things greed and world domination are.


BTW. That's complete crap sold to you by socialists. There has only been ever one actual monopoly in North America and that was AT&T and the government created it. Standard oil was #3 in the market by the time it was split up. Microsoft would fail if anyone would stand up. And btw, MS has the right to sell it's product on whatever terms it wants and businesses had the right to choose not to buy it if they so chose (because it's MS's property). People wanted windows, developers wanted to build for windows because it was so much easier (VB). MS capitalized on that, and there is nothing wrong with that. Apple could compete well with MS now if they wanted simply by opening up OS X to any computer on intel and selling software and stop pretending to sell hardware. Linux could easily compete with MS if they would get their heads out of the sand and build an OS that consumers would actually use instead of creating proof of concepts that don't actually work without a recompile.

MS isn't that good, nor is there any loyalty. They just happen to be marginally competent and the rest are completely enept. If the market was left to it's own devices, it would have taken care of MS by itself. Instead we have whiners like Real Media that create crap and then complain that they can't compete with MS. Create good software like Adobe and guess what? MS can't compete with you. Adobe has handed MS it's ass every time MS tries to compete with them, and will continue to do so because they listen to their customers and respond to them instead of MS.

If you want to solve the MS monopoloy stop being a whining socialist and build a better OS that people want to use, and they will switch. It's happened in the past (Wordperfect to Word anyone?) and it will happen again. (Firefox being the perfect example of people switching away from MS)

Build a good .net framework for your OS, and extend the crap out of it making sure that Windows .net applications run perfectly under your OS and you will win this battle. MS has provided the tools for anyone to compete with them if there was the desire and will to do so.

John Galt
Reply #4 Saturday, July 2, 2005 12:09 AM
Oh ya. And point of fact: Bill Gates donated more money to charities around the world last year than any one person has ever done in their entire lives, little own in a year. So if you're condemning him for being a capitalist, think again.
Jafo
Reply #5 Saturday, July 2, 2005 12:32 AM

Oh ya. And point of fact: Bill Gates donated more money to charities around the world last year than any one person has ever done in their entire lives, little own in a year. So if you're condemning him for being a capitalist, think again.

That's thrilling for him.  Atilla the Hun might do just the same, had he a shit-load of moulah to hand out....

So...who exactly is lambasting Mister Gates for being profitable/successful?...

GreenReaper
Reply #6 Saturday, July 2, 2005 12:42 AM
Apple could compete well with MS now if they wanted simply by opening up OS X to any computer on intel and selling software and stop pretending to sell hardware.

I disagree. Apple aren't selling software alone, or hardware. They're selling a "product", and that product isn't the hardware or software, but a mixture of the two, and a whole lot of other things. It's an image. A digital lifestyle. The hardware (and software) is just part of what goes together to achieve this.

Stardock is really no different. Despite the fact that Stardock sells WindowBlinds, WindowBlinds in and of itself would sell very few copies. Instead, Stardock is really selling the ability to get those cool skins on your computer. Without those skins, there would be little to sell - just imagine trying to do that:

"Oh, you can build your own user interface? Well, that's cool, but I don't have the time, and I don't have the skills either."

So Stardock sells an image, too. Which is good, because lots of people want pretty desktops!

The problem, of course, is that every so often skinners - or, quite often, self-righteous non-skinners! - get the idea that Stardock is making money with the help of skinners (which is true), and conveniently forget that if there weren't people buying it to view their skins, the program wouldn't be any good, as there wouldn't be any reason for Stardock to continue developing it. Nor would there be any point in advertising the program (it's actually a lot more work than you think, though you can get some results with limited effort), and so the audience of viewing users would be pretty small, too.

See ShellWM and Illumination for an example of what generally happens in that case - stagnation of a promising program after difficulties that would result in a lot of "non-fun" work. Amazingly enough, people don't tend to work on non-fun things unless they're paid!

Goodness, didn't this get off-topic?
Draginol
Reply #7 Saturday, July 2, 2005 12:46 AM

OS/2 died because it failed to support 32 bit windows applications (effectively) and of course anything IBM touches in the consumer market turns to dust in a hurry (PPC is a good example)

There was no such as a 32-bit Windows application in 1992, 1993, or 1994. If you really think that the solution was "build a better OS" then you should wake up to reality. OS/2 2.x in 1992, 1993, and 1994 (that's 3 years, and in the computer world that's a lifetime) was a much better choice. OS/2 was the logical upgrade path.

The alternative at that time was not "32bit Windows". It was DOS 6 with its own config.sys and autoexec and then Windows with its win.ini and system.ini and other nonsense piled on top.

GreenReaper
Reply #8 Saturday, July 2, 2005 12:47 AM
As to building an OS . . . get real! Building any kind of platform is a heck of a job, and getting people to actually switch to it is ten times as hard. And hey, if I wanted to run .NET applications under a non-Microsoft operating system, I could just get Mono and run it under Linux. Competing with that would be pretty hard, I think.
c242
Reply #9 Saturday, July 2, 2005 9:15 AM
I remember at that time a big computer store with shops all over germany (escom - doesn't exist anymore) tried to promote os/2 warp4 by selling it with all new systems instead of windows. that was a complete desaster as clients didn't accept that at all. Why ? I really don't know...
Jafo
Reply #10 Saturday, July 2, 2005 9:44 AM
Jafo has the urge to drag out his copy of Warp 4 and see what it's like all this time later....
Leauki
Reply #11 Saturday, July 2, 2005 9:45 AM
"when consumers have their options reduced by a monopoly that was created by slimy and covert deals"

I have seen that "monopoly" created. I in fact still don't buy from the "monopoly". The Microsoft "monopoly" is one of these odd new-age monopolies where there are other suppliers and you can buy from them if you like.

Starkers, what operating system do you use?

Consumers did not "have their options reduced", consumers reduced their own options. I was there in 1995 when people bought Windows 95, when they actually queued in the streets to get an early copy.

And I used OS/2.

I knew many people who used OS/2. But I knew few who actually bought OS/2 software. One of my friends used OS/2 until StarCraft came out and wouldn't run on it. Blizzard was not out to kill OS/2, they just reacted to the reality that the vast majority of people used Windows 95 and its descendants. And these people chose to do so.

I was using OS/2 until 1998.

I still don't use Windows.

I always found Windows annoying. Even when I found OS/2 annoying, I found Windows annoying.

c424: I remember that too. It was a mystery to me then and it is a mystery to me now. I found an explanation, but it is not logical. It appears that people work on the simple principle: "Complain about Microsoft, but never ever buy anything from any other company when Microsoft make a competing product. Buy Microsoft.".

That's how it works. I don't understand people.

Don't complain. Go and support your cause with YOUR OWN money. It's not difficult.
Blue Ninja
Reply #12 Sunday, July 3, 2005 12:44 AM
Talk about anniversaries - March 31st is my birthday! I used OS/2 since version 2 also, and converted a good many people. I ran a computer store from 1994 to 2002, and sold quite a few machines with OS/2 2, then Warp 3.0 to various high-end users. We installed OS/2 servers and many workstations for various business clients.

Most interestingly, in 1994, I wrote a web server on an OS/2 machine for our company, using GoServe and REXX, which featured a system configurator (Select options on a web form, get a custom price quote) that integrated with our inventory system (such as it was) for real-time pricing and such. Customers could call with a quote #, and we could look it up ourselves. That was pretty damn cool, especially at the time when BBSs were still widely popular!

And, we did quite a few virus scans against customer's hard drives in the OS/2 machine, knowing any virus they DID have wouldn't infect the test machine - Windows support had been disabled on it.

So I, too, have fond memories of OS/2's superiority at the time, which sadly weren't enough to make it more popular than it was. And I'm reminded of it every time I poke around my XP's system32 folder and see the os2.dll file that, thanks to it's robustness and stability, is still the core of Windows today

So long, old friend - we hardly knew ye!
starkers
Reply #13 Sunday, July 3, 2005 1:28 AM
Andrew...I use Xindows XP Professional SP2, but that's because it happens to be the most convenient OS for my needs.

I am neither an advocate or a detractor of MS (nor Apple, Linux,etc). I simply do not approve of monopolies that buy out or beat down their competitors, legally or otherwise, to totally dominate a market with their own products. This does reduce consumer options because there is very little else to choose from... how many other viable OSes could there have been if other software manufacturers had the huge hype and resources that MS has at its disposal? No other company can compete when MS has created a captive market that sees no alternative. Furthermore, monopoly marketing does nothing for competitive pricing, because a monopoly can set its own price knowing it has a captive market.

Perhaps many queued to get early editions of Windows 95, but then, how many millions didn't? And more to the point, what else was truly available in the computing climate of the day...apart from Apple products?

It may be true that Bill gates has donated huge sums to charity, and I commend him for that, redistributing some of his wealth to millions in dire need, but my point was more concerned with MS ploughing some back to the consumers who supported its products with their hard earned cash. Without these consumers. MS technology would have little relevance or value, nor would it be a wealthy, worldwide corporation.

These are just my opinions and I don't expect everyone to agree, but I have seen similar sentiments displayed here, so I'm not alone
thomassen
Reply #14 Sunday, July 3, 2005 7:53 AM
I'm getting curious about OS/2. A bit late perhaps. But I had never heard of OS/2 in the days of Win3.1. Mind you that I was about 8-9 or something then.
But is this OS availible now? As a legacy product? (Like BeOS) Or is it completely out of circulation?
Leauki
Reply #15 Sunday, July 3, 2005 8:20 AM
"Andrew...I use Xindows XP Professional SP2, but that's because it happens to be the most convenient OS for my needs."

Excellent. So you saw what the market had to offer and chose what seemed the best product for your needs. I did the same.

"I simply do not approve of monopolies that buy out or beat down their competitors, legally or otherwise, to totally dominate a market with their own products."

Then don't buy their products. But first of all, Microsoft are not a monopoly. You can buy other products. I don't think you know what a monopoly is. But if you are against Microsoft's high market share, you are free to buy elsewhere. And you should. For your beliefs and for what you think is right, you should spend your money in a way that makes the world a better place. If "most convenient" is the better world you envision, buy Microsoft. It's very simple.

The market is only as "captive" as you are eager to choose convenience over your ideals.

You have indeed seem similar sentiments displayed here, but that doesn't mean that customer decisions do not influence the market. It merely means that many people are more prone to complaining and asking government to spend (other people's money) to influence the market rather than spending their own money on influencing the market.

Government cannot do anything, legally, to stop people buying Microsoft products. We the people have to do it ourselves. That's how it works. By buying from Microsoft you are causing the problem you are complaining about.

So I suggest that you stop complaining and stop causing the situation you are complaining about.

"Anyone with half a business brain knows that any market is healthier with viable competition"

And anyone with a whole business brain knows that such a market needs people who buy from the viable competition. "Viable competition" is a function of customers' decisions, not of Microsoft's marketing. It's up to you to go and buy elsewhere. You can. I know you can because I did.

Do your part. Contribute your share. We need you to help us fight the bully.

But you are free to support the bully of course. That is your right. But you should not support the bully and then complain that the bully has so many supporters. That is just idiotic, don't you think?

"But is this OS availible now? As a legacy product? (Like BeOS) Or is it completely out of circulation?"

It is available at www.ecomstation.com. I believe it costs as much as any other operating system. And it still runs DOS and Win31 programs as well as Java programs, OS/2 programs, and most Win32 programs via Odin, an OS/2 version of Wine.

But I do believe you are too late. New releases of OS/2 are attractive to the few surviving OS/2 users but not to new users.

I recommend you wait a year and replace your current computer with an Apple computer. You can probably (by then you will know) run Windows on it, but you'll have the option to switch to Mac OS. And Windows games will probably be ported quickly and some Windows programs will probably run using Wine.

www.netneurotic.net/mac/intel/


Boss019
Reply #16 Sunday, July 3, 2005 10:01 AM
Thank you Andrew. Finally, some reasoned logic instead of ideological whining.
Draginol
Reply #17 Sunday, July 3, 2005 10:03 AM
Then don't buy their products. But first of all, Microsoft are not a monopoly. You can buy other products. I don't think you know what a monopoly is. But if you are against Microsoft's high market share, you are free to buy elsewhere. And you should. For your beliefs and for what you think is right, you should spend your money in a way that makes the world a better place. If "most convenient" is the better world you envision, buy Microsoft. It's very simple.



Microsoft is an OS monopoly. That has already been legally resolved. That is what all these recent suits work on -- that Microsoft is a monopoly.
thomassen
Reply #18 Sunday, July 3, 2005 10:32 AM
It is available at www.ecomstation.com. I believe it costs as much as any other operating system. And it still runs DOS and Win31 programs as well as Java programs, OS/2 programs, and most Win32 programs via Odin, an OS/2 version of Wine.

Right'o. I am not looking for a new OS to use. I am just a curious soul. I've just installed and tried a Linux OS, I have BeOS downloaded, but haven't had time to try it. Just wondered if OS/2 was free of charge to try since it's sentenced to death and I thought it had ceased operation quite a few years ago.


Btw, Andrew, interesting writing there. Different from what you read most of the times.
Draginol
Reply #19 Sunday, July 3, 2005 10:36 AM
Odin was never really finished. It's not like you can run Office XP under OS/2.
Leauki
Reply #20 Sunday, July 3, 2005 10:45 AM
Draginol, I read about the court decisions. It seems to me that the court decided that Microsoft abused monopoly powers (which is true) but not that they are a monopoly (which is not). A supplier can have monopoly power without having a monopoly. And the supplier can certainly abuse them.

A court decision that a supplier who is not the only supplier for a given good is a monopoly is about as useful as a court decision that Pi is 3.0. Courts should not and do not decide about the realities of the universe, merely about man-made laws.

I don't know what Odin's status is. I know that Wine can run Microsoft Office and StarCraft.

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