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OS/2 Direct Retail Companies -- Reviews

One of the earliest things OS/2 users learn about their operating system is that it is difficult to find applications for it in retail stores. Most, if not all, of us have come up against at least one surly sales clerk or opinionated retail manager who felt it necessary to explain our folly (for using OS/2) to us when we inquired about OS/2 applications. But one of the next things that most OS/2 users learn is that there is a consolation to this problem: Direct Retailers.

On top of its rich selection of high quality shareware, OS/2 has a very healthy (and growing) tradition of direct retailers supporting it. The obvious reason for this trend is the relatively small and geographically widespread user-base of OS/2. Users can be found from Tokyo to Toronto, but even in some large cities, trying to find a large enough population to support a walk-in retail outlet can be difficult.

There are notable exceptions to this of course, and our hats are off to those who loyally provide shelf space to OS/2 software. But the real heart of OS/2 sales is through direct channels, either direct from the manufacturer or through one of a number of Direct Retailers.

In July, OS/2 e-Zine! advertised to the public that we were conducting a simple survey of user experiences with OS/2 direct retailers. Announcements requesting votes were posted to comp.os.os2.announce, comp.os.os2.misc, and comp.os.os2.apps newsgroups, to the Best of OS/2 announcement facility and on our own home page. The request was simple: we asked users to send e-mail stating which direct retailer(s) they had experience with and how they ranked that company, from 1 to 5 (1 being worst, 5 best) in two categories, Promptness & Reliability and Customer Service.

We received votes for a great number of direct retailers and learned some interesting things about the OS/2 software market in the process. For example, while the direct retail market is definitely strongest in the United States, it is picking up in many other parts of the world.

Here in Canada Below Zero/2 serves the Western part of the country and House of Technology, an exclusively Canadian distributor of OS/2 products to retail stores, is gearing up to make sure that users from coast to coast will be able to buy products, either in walk-in or mail order venues.

Users in other parts of the world may also have alternatives to American outlets. Companies such as MENSYS in the Netherlands, or OS/2 Software Express (Tel: +2711-616-6485) in South Africa and many others serve their local areas and beyond.

And on another interesting note, shoppers may be interested in the newly born Best of OS/2 electronic direct retailer, founded by the folks at InnoVal Systems Solutions. While the company was not yet operational at the time of this writing, some time in August they will be retailing OS/2 products in full force, offering over 150 shrink wrapped or electronically delivered products. For the buyer who wants the most instant purchase possible, this may be the retail method of the future.

Despite the many good direct retailers worldwide however, we chose to focus on only five. We made this decision for a few reasons: these five were the companies that received the most votes in our survey and they all assured us that they can ship to most parts of the world.

Below you'll find links to a short description of each of these companies and a table representing the results of our survey plus some other useful information.

On July 31st, we visited each company's WWW site or in some other way checked prices on six common (but arbitrarily selected) OS/2 products (Object Desktop, MicroLearn Game Pack II, Galactic Civilizations 2, PartitionMagic for OS/2, BackAgain/2 Professional v4.0 and GammaTech Utilities). The prices for each company were averaged to give a general indication of prices (but, of course, the best way to judge prices is to contact the various companies directly). These numbers, along with our readers' votes on Promptness & Reliability and Customer Service can be found in the table below.


 * Commentary on OS/2 and the retail market -- by Christopher B. Wright

 * Reviews (in alphabetical order) of the companies included in our survey:

 * Survey Results (in table format)

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