OS/2 Dead? and IBM Snubs Game Developers- by Dave Peterson

As CEO of an independent software vendor developing applications for OS/2, I am very concerned about some recent articles I have come across while browsing the 'Net.

The first is an article published in the online edition of PC Week on August 15. In this startling article, PC Week quotes an IBM executive as saying, "It's over," when referring to the future of OS/2. Equally disappointing is that the main thread of the article relates how William Zachmann, a longtime, high profile supporter of OS/2, has publicly declared his belief that OS/2 is dead and that IBM is, "going to pack it in."

The second article was found in the Usenet newsgroup comp.os.os2.programming.tools. This post contains a quote from IBM which can be taken as a strong demonstration that IBM is backing away from the many home users of OS/2.

John Knutson wrote that when he inquired why certain items had been removed from the Developer's Connection CD he received the following response:

In keeping with IBM's current OS/2 strategy to focus primarily on the
business user, the IBM Developer's Toolkit for OS/2 Warp Version 4 has been
slightly modified.  Modifications include the following:

        The Entertainment tools heading has been removed from the Developer
        Connection Catalog.  The following tools, formerly in the Entertainment
        section, have been moved to new locations in the toolkit:

        - FSDIVE and MIDI support:  Multimedia Directory
        - MIDI, Direct Audio, Beehive, and FS Dive samples: Multimedia
        - Headers and Bindings for MIDI and DIVE support: System Headers 
                and Bindings

        The following Entertainment tools have been removed altogether 
        because they are used exclusively for the development of games and 
        are unrelated to the development of business applications:

        - Joystick device driver
        - Robot sample
        - BRender
        - tictactoe

        (signed) DevCon Support
And the third article was concerning the quick-release of the 'Merlin' release of OS/2. It has been reported in both PC Week and InfoWorld that the decision was made to forgo a second beta because of the imminent release of Microsoft's NT 4.0 and IBM's belief that Merlin is in 'releasable' shape. This information subsequently caused an uproar, as gauged on the Usenet newsgroups, among the 10,000 original beta testers who felt that there were numerous bugs in the product.

I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone that a buggy product will detract from users' opinions more than will a delay in its release. After all, look at Windows 95: delayed for more than two years but widely acknowledged as being usable as a day-to-day operating system. A question of marketing? Maybe, but the fact remains that Windows 95 was delayed for two years and Microsoft claims it has already sold, in one year, more copies than IBM claims for OS/2 in its complete history.

And who, exactly, is the voice recognition in Merlin targeted for? Business users? A large majority barely use the advanced multimedia capabilities they already have. I think the VTD is going to be more of a hit with the home user and the "OS/2 champion". Why disappoint these users with a lack of entertainment software while teasing them with the fun of voice recognition?

All this adds up to a hauntingly pervasive feeling that the death of OS/2 as a viable user operating system is almost upon us.

While I'm not privy to the exact number of users of OS/2 who are using it as their personal day-to-day workhorse operating system, I am confident that it is a rather large number as judged by the success of Stardock, BMT Micro, Indelible Blue, etc. Those users are going to feel abandoned and confused when IBM ceases to support development of applications for their operating system and focuses solely on business customers.

OS/2 needs champions in order to continue to make inroads at the business level! Where do those champions come from? They come from users who have the operating system on their home machines and find it useful, productive, and fun. It seems to me that IBM is cutting off its nose to spite its face when it removes preexisting, and working, toolkits from its developer support.

While I am concerned about the future of OS/2 on a personal level, as it is my operating system of choice, my main concern is the lack of information about IBM's long term plans regarding their future support and targeting of the OS/2 operating system. As I am a commercial member of the IBM Solution Developer Program I would expect, at least as a common courtesy, to be provided some kind of official information about continuing support in more depth than what I can read in the weekly news magazines. As a company that has so far staked its existence on IBM's promise of continued support, I believe that a little more in depth knowledge is the minimum that should be done.

And is it too much to ask that IBM not hide the removal of developer resources by not publicizing them (which is what happened with the removal of game support)?

(A slightly modified version of this letter was originally sent to IBM directly by the author. They have yet to reply.)

Dave Peterson is CEO of Sine Qua Non, Incorporated. They are currently finishing up an upcoming release of their URL management software which will work with both the IBM WebExplorer and the recently announced Netscape Navigator for OS/2.

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