OS/2 eZine

16 October 2000
Christopher B. Wright is the Editor in Chief of OS/2 eZine, a title he tried to duck for many months with little success. When he's not working on OS/2 eZine (what? he's not supposed to have any other jobs!) he works on his web comic strip, Help Desk.

If you have a comment about the content of this article, please feel free to vent in the OS/2 eZine discussion forums.

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From the Editor

The times -- are they a'changin'?

It seems as though, for at least a year, the OS/2 community has been holding its breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

IBM's increasingly blasé corporate attitude towards OS/2 has been infuriating, disheartening, and at times downright insulting. Despite the presence of people within IBM who clearly support and believe in the product, it seems as though most people in IBM consider it an "also-ran" product, despite the fact that it is still, in many ways, a better product than Windows 2000. We as a community have not been able to support OS/2 in the same manner the Linux community has supported Linux, because IBM owns OS/2 -- we don't. And a community cannot support a proprietary product unless the owner of that product is willing to let that support happen.

Could that be changing? Could that be a light I see at the end of the tunnel? Is that light the promise of a way out, or just the headlight of an oncoming train?

Serenity Systems, one of the few companies who can say that they actually have a business based on the sale of OS/2, is doing something that just might increase the possibility of the light being a way out, rather than a train. They have licensed OS/2 from IBM and are busy working on eComStation: an operating system that is, essentially, OS/2 under a different name. It is OS/2 with most of the new technologies from the very latest Warp Server: the new kernel, the journaling file system, and with the professional version, even support for up to 64 processors. And it is Serenity Systems, not IBM, who will be required to market it, sell it, and support it, because it is their baby -- and their company -- they're putting on the line.

Many OS/2 advocates have said, very loudly, that the reason OS/2 failed was because IBM wouldn't commit to it. That if IBM had simply supported it the way it should have been, the OS/2 community could have carried it on to victory. To every single person who has ever said that, typed it, and thought it, I have something to say to you, right now:

It's put-up or shut-up time.

Think of eComStation as OS/2 5.0. Or, think of eComStation as a brand-new operating system that is 99% OS/2-compatible. And while you're at it, think of ways to ensure that eComStation succeeds to the point where Serenity Systems can say "we made a good business decision here, and we're going to keep doing it."

I don't want to sound like a broken-down Isaiah, crying to heavens about doom and the end of the world as we know it, but I tend to think that if the OS/2 community isn't able to pull together and support eComStation, and make it a success, then OS/2 as an end-user operating system will end. I suspect it will still be used in business for some time, and IBM will find ways to eke every dollar they can out of an OS that they've decided to sunset, but I have no illusions that one day they'll wake up and say "hey, we did a terrible thing here. It's time to correct this grevious error, and make OS/2 the operating system it should have been."

When eComStation comes out, the computer industry as a whole -- and most of the computer press, I'm quite sure -- will probably say "so what?" It's bad enough for the poor, put-upon computer press that they have to cover three operating systems: Windows, Linux, and Macintosh. Three, as we all know, is two too many for most of them. So we're going to have to pull together and figure out a way to make people care.

Be prepared for the questions and the criticisms. People aren't going to understand why this is important. They're going to say things like:

"It's not an open source product. Why should I care?"

"It's not windows. Why should I care?"

"All it is, is Warp 4 with all the fixpacks applied and a few other things tacked on. Why should I care?"

"Linux is the next big thing. Why should I care about something that isn't Linux?"

"What is eComStation going to do for me and my business? Why should I care?"

I'm sure you can think of at least as many questions that people will inevitably ask. And we're going to need to answer them, and answer them decisively, in order to get people to pay attention to us, and in order for our community to grow. We need to grow.

At some point, when I go to WarpTech or Warpstock USA (or, someday when I'm rich, Warpstock Europe) I'd like to see new end-users. I'd like to see vendors in the vendors area that I haven't seen before. Even if it's just a handful of brand new people, and one or two brand new vendors, that will be a sign that we're starting to successfully fight off the atrophy that endangers us right now. I'd like to see new developers contributing to OS/2 Netlabs projects. And I'd like to see the Serenity Systems people looking very, very, well-fed. That's my hope for the future: the reality is that in order for this to happen we have to pull together and do everything we can to make eComStation a success.

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