June 1999

There has been a lot of talk on the Internet lately about alternative operating systems. Some people have even voiced their concerns about the need to "save OS/2." From who or what do they think OS/2 must be "saved?"

First and foremost, people think OS/2 must be saved from IBM, its owner. This line of reasoning is straightforward. IBM owns OS/2, and only they can make it go away. The question is, why would they? IBM wants to make money on OS/2, except they want to make money on *their* terms, not ours. That means they want high-margin, service-fee-based, recurring income. IBM is not interested in selling 100,000 copies or even 1,000,000 copies of a software product unless there is a recurring income from that sale. You just don't get that kind of income from selling a consumer operating system -- unless you fleece the public by selling the same product every few years in a new package. Does everybody know which company does that? Of course, the monopoly company. Not IBM.

So OS/2 will continue to exist and even grow in those markets to which IBM allocates resources. OS/2 will survive; IBM will continue to support it.

The second so-called "threat" is that OS/2 might disappear because there are "not enough users." However, there are a lot of other platforms out there with a limited user base. We don't seriously believe DOS will disappear, do we? Of course not. Millions of people continue to use DOS and DOS applications today. If they are wise enough to use IBM PC-DOS with the Y2K patch, or IBM DOS2000, or Caldera FreeDOS, then the Y2K issue will not prevent them from continuing to use DOS indefinitely. In fact, only the need for device drivers for various peripherals continues to be a problem. Yet, almost any device that will setup with Linux or OS/2 can also run with DOS.

So having a limited base of users does not mean that a platform must necessarily disappear -- no matter what the spinmeisters at Microsoft will tell you.

The third source of fear for some users is the idea that there are "not enough OS/2 applications." A visit to the The OS/2 Alternative website should quickly dispel that notion. Having well over 1,000 current, supported native OS/2 applications is a fine example of a platform that continues to have development support and interest. Furthermore, OS/2 will continue to grow with Java. Also, many Linux and other open-source products are and will continue to be ported to OS/2. The number of applications that can run successfully on OS/2 Warp is growing and will continue to grow.

What people really fear is that certain "key" or "monopoly" applications are not available in native OS/2 format. Admittedly, this is an obstacle. But it is not something that spells doom. It is a challenge to be overcome with the creativity, the guts, and the technological excellence that the OS/2 community has always displayed. It is an obstacle that *will* be overcome, sooner or later, one way or another.

In my opinion, the real problem that OS/2 faces is *us*. We OS/2 supporters find it too easy to start adopting the language of the naysayers, the wonks, the know-it-alls who have mindlessly droned on, year after year, about some theoretical "end" for OS/2. When you begin adopting the language of the enemy, the battle is halfway lost already.

It's high time to straighten up and fly right. We must talk of how to PROSPER OS/2, not how to "save" it. We must talk of how to GROW OS/2, not how to "save" it. We must focus people's attention on what OS/2 CAN DO, not mumble about what few things OS/2 cannot do. And then we need to get serious about tackling those few remaining areas where OS/2 is challenged.

IBM will continue to push "their" OS/2, but they have shown some amazing flexibility on the issue of operating systems. In just one year, IBM's position on Linux has gone from "wait and see" to "of course we do Linux!" IBM responds to their customer base in a more positive way than we think. IBM has never openly bad-mouthed Linux. If any IBM'ers openly bad-mouth OS/2, this is a case of mutiny or at least bad communication. It is NOT the IBM "party line."

For those OS/2 supporters out there who think that IBM wants us to just quietly disappear, why not call their bluff? Why not speak up publicly in favor of OS/2? If IBM is either positive or neutral in response, we can continue to press forward from there. If IBM comes out strongly negative against such an initiative, then we will have smoked them out, right?

In line with this approach, OS/2 Headquarters is quietly planning a *very creative* advertising campaign to promote OS/2 both inside and outside of the usual Internet channels that we are familiar with. Over the next few months, HQ will reveal the details of this approach as the plan unfolds.

In the meantime, you know what to do. Now is no time to knuckle under to the forces of mediocrity. With looming issues such as Y2K, the DOJ lawsuit, and the ever-growing bloat and folly of so-called "mainstream" products, now is the time to grow OS/2, to prosper OS/2, and to offer OS/2 as what it really is: the finest PC operating system in the world.

Most recent revision: May 28, 1999
Copyright © 1999, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.