December 2002

The latest announcement from IBM seemed to be big news -- the shrinkwrap versions of OS/2 v4 and WSEB (Warp Server for E-Business) would no longer be available after the middle of next year. But as always, the vultures who lurk hungrily looking for yet another sign of some imagined "death" of OS/2 were disappointed. Just like all the other times such bogus claims have promoted, IBM immediately responded with a clear statement that OS/2 is still for sale, and will continue to be sold, supported, and improved. In fact, for the first time I have ever heard of, the exact word used was "indefinitely."

This recent open-ended commitment by IBM shows that the OS/2 family of products continues to be a solution that is in demand and providing successful results for numerous IBM customers. Nobody makes an indefinite commitment to a product unless it is providing benefits to customers and profits to the company that produces it. Yes, IBM is also making a killing from servicing companies that were duped into settling for Windoze, but that's part of the territory. A significant percentage of today's major corporations are run by boardrooms filled with fools, playboys, and/or crooks, people who know next to nothing about software and care even less about fixing that ignorance. If you're going to sell to these people, compromise is a given.

Interestingly, IBM claimed that OS/2 is available via download. I was not aware of this option. I wonder if there is a "real-time" download feature, a method of actually downloading right into an install instead of simply transferring a packed file. That would be the ultimate in "remote installs." There are also CD versions still available, but without printed documentation, which is a significant cost relative to the price of CD-based documentation. Keep in mind that the vast majority of Windoze copies are provided through monopoly preloads, with little or no print documentation for that product, either.

For those who are interested in buying or reselling a shrinkwrap product based on OS/2, there is eCS (eComStation) by Serenity Systems ( This bisection of the OS marketplace into a "corporate" segment and a "shrinkwarp" segment should probably have been done long ago. We see a similar division between the IBM Web Browser (IWB) and Mozilla/2. In both cases, there is a version that IBM provides to large customers for a hefty fee, and another version that is available for public consumption and managed by a dedicated group of enthusiasts and consultants who are not restricted by the IBM corporate mindset.

The key ingredient to the success of the non-corporate segment of the OS/2 marketplace will continue to be the development and improvement of native OS/2 applications. There have been numerous announcements of new utilities -- such as the award-winning antispam product JunkSpy from Sundial Systems ( -- but relatively few of the major, task-oriented applications such as time and record keeping, accounting, tax calculation, and so forth. I have been on record for five years recommending that OS/2-oriented development include both a cross-platform pure-Java version, as well as a native OS/2 version, in order to provide profit-oriented developers with access to both a large customer base as well as an elite corps of OS/2 buyers. I still believe this is the clear path to commercial success for developers who do not want the burden of dealing with both a native OS/2 and a Microsoft-dependent development regime.

Meanwhile, we await the next version of eCS with eager anticipation. Due to the emphasis on quality over marketing hype, this product has been delayed and is now expected in February 2003. It's easy to see now that it is difficult to coordinate a large marketing splash with a product that "will not be sold before its time." It takes 3 to 6 months of leadtime to reserve advertisements in print and visual media, at least of the mainstream outlets. We don't expect to see a Super Bowl ad for eCS (although it would be nice to have an OS/2 bumper sticker surreptitiously placed on a car in one of those commercials....).

But as before, the choice remains: you can settle for bloated, obsolete junkware sold by two-bit carnival grifters and convicted monopolists, or you can move up to a higher level with the integrating platform based on IBM's world-class OS/2 technology. Yes, there are also other alternatives, but these remain the two most mature and full-featured platforms. Choose wisely!

Most recent revision: November 28, 2002
Copyright © 2002, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.