March 2003

The more things change, the more they stay the same. -- Alphonse Karr

It seems that every time a really hot new OS/2 product looks like it will make waves in the general PC community, somebody steps in and a sudden buyout (or sellout) occurs. I remember when Partition Magic and other PowerQuest products were major OS/2 tools.... Just a few years ago, PQ won a major Comdex award for Best of Show in the utility category. Now PQ scarcely admits that it works with OS/2.

Around that same time, a small-time software vendor (who shall remain unnamed) with a great OS/2 graphics package decided to take pre-orders for Version 3 of its product. After raking in some serious dollars from OS/2 users and stringing them along, they suddenly announced that Version 3 would be a Windoze-only product! That would be as much of an upgrade as moving from "sand" to "quicksand" because you were looking for speed, and "quick" sounded like speed.

Now the maker of Virtual PC for OS/2, Connectix Corporation, has sold out to Microsoft. In its press release, Microsoft (actually, its sneering mouthpiece Waggener-Edstrom) immediately declared that the OS/2 version would be terminated after six months. Instead of competing with IBM for these high-end OS/2 customers, Microsoft instead just sticks a spoke in the wheels of Progress by discontinuing a great product. One online report claims that Innotek, the German co-developer of VPC for OS/2, will continue to make the OS/2 version "in cooperation with Microsoft." I shudder to think how similar Microsoft is at cooperating as the leader of a certain middle-Eastern nation....

But behind the scenes, there really is a battle going on for the heart and soul of the computer industry. Sure, these little skirmishes may go unnoticed by the general press and even (especially?) the PC industry trade press. But these battleground events are really where the epic struggle for control of the personal computer is continuing even today. How do we know this?

The egos betray themselves. Was it only by coincidence that Microsoft dumped Windows95 onto humanity on August 24, 1995? Or was it because this date was precisely four years after Linus Torvalds released the first version of Linux onto the Internet?

Then again, was it merely coincidence that OS/2 Warp version 4.0 was released for public enjoyment on September 25, 1996 -- exactly one year, one month, and one day after Windows95 was disgorged from the Black Hole of Redmond?

And consider this: Was it solely a coincidence that the Connectix buyout was announced on the very day that IBM closed its deal to purchase high-end software toolmaker Rational Systems? Surely that deal was a Richter 8.5 on the Tantrum-o-Meter in Washington State, since Microsoft had been on the verge of the very same transaction.

Sure, all of this could be a series of unconnected, random coincidences. But this industry is not run by coincidence. It is fueled by egotism, by revenge, by avarice. After a decade of monopolistic shenanigans, heroic recovery, obscure legal proceedings, political pandering, and courtroom antics, the PC industry still boils down to one thing: a pissing contest between Microsoft and IBM.

After all, it was not until IBM made its move toward the open standards, virtual machines, and the Internet that Microsoft suddenly woke up and smelled the Java. The antitrust case would never have taken place if IBM had not baited Microsoft into attempting to illegally extend its PC monopoly to alternative platforms. Federal antitrust statutes only come into play when a monopolist seeks to extend beyond its home turf into different markets.

Sure, IBM can still use VMWare for its non-OS/2 platforms, but we will have to see if Innotek has the savvy and the fortitude to successfully wrestle with the octopus in Redmond to keep VPC for OS/2 alive and well.
If managers make all the decisions, companies make money but things break

Most recent revision: March 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.