Trevor's Rant- by Trevor Smith

You know those politicians who get up in front of people and declare that they had a speech prepared but they aren't going to give it? Instead they dramatically rip up their cue cards (which are actually blank) and proceed to ad-lib a (carefully prepared) speech. Well, that's what I'm going to do this month.

The (blank) cue cards in question were my well thought out and incredibly amusing denouncement of William Zachmann's now infamous posting to CompuServe's Canopus forum. If you're not familiar with the doom and gloom content of Zachmann's posting and the ensuing chaos and flames on the Internet, basically he said top IBM management doesn't care about OS/2 and that they (internally) think it is dead.

His was not the first such message to make its way into c.o.os2 newsgroups, into the mainstream press or into my e-mail inbox. But of course, many people (including Mr. Zachmann) feel that he is a highly reliable source due to his "celebrity" in the OS/2 community. (Oh, you should have seen the great satire of this, our collective obsession with "celebrities" and their predictions, that I had concocted. But alas, those cue cards are ripped up...)

Frankly, I'm only human and I get discouraged by this kind of news as easily as any OS/2 user. Luckily I was able to get back on track by speaking to some well known OS/2 ISVs and some folks at IBM. After hearing much more positive "predictions" from people who have much closer relationships with "top IBM management", I didn't look back and from the amount of traffic on the newsgroups, it's probably a good thing. I could have spent the rest of the month just reading all the "is too -- is not" posts. Whatever the case, we'll find out eventually and if Mr. Zachmann is as good a diviner as some seem to think he is, I will praise him for his foresight.

Here's where I ad-lib my (carefully prepared) replacement speech:

But something even more unbelievable came across my desk this month. (A serious look crosses my face as I stare out at my silent audience.) Something 100% verifiable and something that will affect real people right now. And it comes directly from IBM.

Many have good cause to shake their fists (or at least their heads) at IBM this month. Wise old Big Blue announced in a document dated July 15th that they had made changes to their "IBM Solution Developer Program". Basically this is an "ISV support" program for a variety of IBM's platforms (including OS/2) where if you want to write an application for one of those platforms and you have technical questions, IBM helps you out. The good news is that it seems pretty much all members of the IBM Solution Developer Program will now have access to a 24hr BBS, "covering over 100 IBM products and technologies." Sounds great right?

Wrong. This access grants you the right to ask public questions and perhaps folks (IBM or otherwise) will answer them. But it doesn't guarantee you will get answers. For that you pay.

There are three levels of "Guaranteed Technical Support" listed in the document I have in front of me. The first is a public question and answer service via the BBS which has a guaranteed turnaround time of two working days. The price? US$495 for three questions per year. Gasp. Obviously the big drawback to this service (even worse than price or time delay) is its public nature. I'm sure most ISVs don't enjoy the thought of asking their most difficult technical questions in an open forum where all their competitors can observe.

Level two is better by nature of its privacy. It offers subscribers answers to six questions per year, via private e-mail, with only a one business day turnaround. How much? US$1,495. Cough.

And for those developmentally challenged developers who really need help with their projects, IBM is offering voice q&a (7:00am - 7:00pm CST, Monday - Friday, excluding national holidays). This is a voice mail service with a call back turnaround time of only two business hours. Subscribers (North America only, sorry) get a whopping nine "incidents" per year. US$2,995. Choke.

I'm not privy to what the previous details of developer support from IBM were but one ISV confided that the old system was one where, "you called IBM and they didn't get back to you." So I guess this new arrangement is an improvement.

And I guess the folks in Redmond are laughing themselves right off their seats. Can you imagine if Microsoft had developer support policies like this? OK, I admit I don't know what Microsoft's support policy is for their developers, but I've been led to believe that they kiss developers', er, hands, to ensure they develop for MS platforms. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

What is IBM thinking? Have they forgotten they're supposed to be making money off us, not their developers?

I'm sure Lotus thinks this is a great price. What do they care? With all their IBM infused cash they could pay IBM tech support to write their apps for them. And developers or "partners" in some of the other areas covered by this new agreement might not mind such "pocket change" prices either. But how many OS/2 ISVs are the size of Lotus? I can think of a handful that can easily afford such prices, but why would any sane developer expect to pay for such a service? If MS implemented such a policy I would call it foolish. For IBM to do so with OS/2 developers when they should be encouraging people to write apps for OS/2, I call it ridiculous.

Please note, this service is not just for OS/2 developers and is not meant to target them alone as potential sources of revenues for IBM. But they are included in the list of those who will either be coughing up or else getting the cold shoulder.

I'm not one who usually prefers to bash our beloved IBM but in this case I'm just stunned. A lot of people argue that IBM only has to push OS/2 properly by taking the inexpensive and obvious steps of helping out ISVs and polishing a few rough edges and it will take off. I agree with this crowd. This latest move of IBM's is a step in the wrong direction.

And while members are not charged for this new arrangement if IBM can not provide answers to their questions, not surprisingly, "Except as expressly stated [in the agreement], IBM makes no warranty, express or implied, in connection with these offerings." Uh huh.


Trevor Smith is the full time editor of OS/2 e-Zine! and part time IBM second-guesser. Now if only IBM would realize he is here...

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