The year 2000 held quite a few nice surprises for OS/2 and its users. Probably the biggest surprise of all was that even non-OS/2 companies and individuals largely avoided a Y2K disaster due to software bugs. However, we are not completely out of the woods yet, as some patches were just termporary fixes. It will take years to ferret out all of the century-rollover issues. But quite likely the worst is behind us.
The same can certainly be said of OS/2. Almost a year after the big rollover, I have not heard of any significant OS/2-related Y2K issues. A few minor application issues can be addressed by using the patches found on the VOICE website at http://www.os2voice.org/. With that, let us put Y2K behind us for now, and look at the progress that OS/2 has made this year.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
OS/2 conventions continued to succeed in the year 2000. Of course, nobody is claiming that attendance figures were Comdex-like; the typical OS/2 convention attracts about 400 paid attendees. But it is heartening to see that WarpTech2000 in Arizona, Warpstock2000 in Philadelphia, and Warpstock Euro 2000 in Germany could each attract those kind of numbers in the same year. Better yet, these attendance figures are based on only a small overlap; it was not the same few people flying from country to country to see these shows. Rather, a strong local representation occurred based on the geographical location of each show. There is a lot of latent strength in numbers out there. But until employers provide paid sponsorship and time off, we won't see the huge numbers all at once. Few people have the time and money to take an unpaid business trip on their own time; the fact that thousands of OS/2 users have chosen to make this investment over the past few years is a testament to the quality of the product and the loyalty of its users.
In terms of online representation, OS/2 users in the year 2000 continued to mob any Internet survey about operating systems. OS/2 users continued to attend VOICE online meetings and join user groups such as POSSI and numerous local groups and SIGs. People who use OS/2 have made up their minds, and are not going to be swayed by FUD, advertising hype, or paid product reviews of other platforms. OS/2 users in the new millennium are continuing to use a product that, almost 14 years since its inception, is just now hitting its stride in terms of development support. How is that?
THE (ONLY) INTEGRATING PLATFORM
Just a few years ago, pundits wrongly claimed that Windows would eventually become the one single platform for all mainstream software development. Now the trend has reversed, and media mouthpieces in the PC industry often claim that no single environment can be all things to everyone. However, neither viewpoint paints an accurate or complete picture of the PC industry.
For example, Open Source is a concept whose time has come. Yet open-sourced products are not limited to just the Linux platform. Cross-platform development is arriving to OS/2 and even Windows environments, based on new open-source programming tools such as Watcom's C++ development platform. By opening the tool's source for all to take and embellish, native OS/2 development that targets multiple run-time platforms will be a safe, low-risk pathway. Integration of multiple platforms from the development side -- the exact opposite of Microsoft's goal of narrowed, cow-chute pathways -- is the wave of the future.
But OS/2 is also becoming the optimum choice for run-time environment integration, particularly as Microsoft's offerings continue to strive to conceal and eventually discontinue their support for non-Microsoft applications. During the year 2000, Project ODIN arrived in style, turning the corner and enabling numerous Win32 applications to now run on OS/2 instead of just the monopoly platforms. This means that users of well-entrenched, key business applications that were previously stuck on brain-dead Windows platforms now have an "escape valve" to migrate off of Windows and to the more stable, user-friendly, and hardware efficient OS/2 Warp platform. As for Unix/Linux applications, those that are compatible with the X-Windows standard can run natively on OS/2 using the xfree86 module. OS/2 is becoming an integrating environment that permits Windows 3.X, Win32, DOS, native OS/2, Unix/X, and pure Java applications to run smoothly in native form, without the need for porting or re-compiling. OS/2 is the world's only true multi-platform platform!!
OS/2 TO THE NEXT LEVEL
But OS/2 itself is not just surviving; it is growing and evolving. The year 2000 saw a new OS/2 version from IBM, as well as a new OS/2 platform from an independent VAR. IBM delivered its Convenience Packs, which is marketing-speak for a rolled-up version of OS/2 that includes all of the best features, fixes, and enhancements of the past four years. The CPs can install standalone on a blank hard drive, or be loaded right over the top of a previous OS/2 installation. This new version of OS/2 (displayed as v4.51 on the CD-ROM label) includes support for Project ODIN through a new OS/2 kernel, plus the latest Java and Netscape versions and tons of other goodies.
Serenity Systems has given OS/2 a competitor -- a new "distribution" similar to the concept of Linux distros -- based on the same OS/2 kernel, but with an option to order the SMP version as a high-end alternative solution. Of course, IBM agreed to license this distribution based on the fact that IBM and Serenity are targeting different markets: IBM in the Global 2000 big-enterprise field, and Serenity in the SMB or Small-to-Medium Business market. In the near future, OS/2 Headquarters plans to comparison-test these two OS/2 flavors. Vive la difference!
An OS platform truly needs a great office suite to be a competent solution. Lotus has continued development of its native OS/2 office suite Smartsuite, now up to version 1.5. An updated version 1.6 is in the wings, according to reports, and will provide better file support for legacy Microsoft applications such as Office 2000. Smartsuite continues to provide a great product, but there will soon be open-source competition. In response, Lotus has actually made Smartsuite 1.6 for OS/2 into a free download!! The competition includes Sun's StarOffice, which is being ported to OS/2 by a hardy band of OS/2 programmers. Also, Sundial Systems continues regular enhancements of its family of native OS/2 applications, while regularly adding new utilities such as Junk Spy. While Windows users are gradually being forced into a Microsoft-only paradigm, OS/2 users are gaining ever more choices and options.
I could go on and on about new OS/2 breakthroughs -- Display Doctor to support almost any video card in existence is another year-2000 bonanza -- but time does not permit me to continue. All I know is this: every month I hear from new OS/2 users as well as potential returnees and others who are ready to consider evaluating the product. These individuals and micro-businesses are below IBM's radar, but they do not go unnoticed by the smaller VARs and others who provide OS/2-based solutions. During the year 2001, we will certainly see more interest in OS/2 as Windows2000 continues to belly-flop and Windows MillEd lives down to Microsoft's decadent reputation. (One of my co-workers just gave up on MillEd after numerous daily crashes, and "upgraded" his Dell notebook from MillEd to Windows95!)
In addition to the continued garbage-chute that passes for Microsoft product distribution, PC users are confronting another monumental obstacle: the vastly increased power consumption of MS-driven PCs. Californians are in desperate straits due to the fact that a huge percentage of Windows PCs are located there. The news media has finally made the connection between bloated PCs and bloated power consumption. OS/2's higher efficiency (requiring less hardware power to produce the same or better productivity and performance) means that OS/2 should be on every government hot-list to resolve the energy distribution problem.
The choice really comes down to Bloat or Gloat. Gloat on, OS/2 users!!