Warped Rumours- by Martin Alfredsson

Well, my unofficial Warp 5 FAQ web page has generated quite a bit of excitement so I was asked and decided to write a column based on my "findings". This column will not be a straight "port" of the web page but more an add-on with more comments and such.

Anyhow, "the news of my demise is greatly exaggerated": no that is not for Warp 4 but for OS/2 for the PowerPC (OS2PPC). We all have heard that the product is "put on hold" for 1997 and that there are no machines available to run it on.

All this might be true, but every time news on Warp 4 or Warp 5 lands in my e-mail inbox, it smells OS2PPC. Many of the features touted to be new in Warp 4, 4.x and Warp 5 have been available in OS2PPC since its release. And yes there have been several FixPaks for OS2PPC adding even more new features.

The bottom line is: If you want to know where OS/2 is heading, take a look at the specs for OS/2 PPC. Warp 5 will be based on the OS2PPC code. That does not mean that features won't be added to Warp 4, but they will be mostly cosmetics. OS2PPC has a TRUE asynchronous input queue (no WPS hangs). It has multithreaded device drivers (promised for Warp 4.1) and even object oriented device drivers that greatly simplify development and porting of device drivers. Now, don't run out to get a machine and start bugging IBM for OS2PPC, Warp 5 will be different, not just because it's a later release, but also since two important things have changed:

The microkernel (MK) will be replaced with version 2.0. The microkernel (IBM (Mach) Microkernel 2.0) has nothing to do with OS/2. It's used in various IBM and non-IBM projects and I suspect that future AIX versions and even the AS/400 will be based on it. The MK is the thing that handles the hardware interface for the operating systems that runs on the machine. IBM has shown a PPC machine running Windows NT and the Macintosh OS concurrently and that was probably on top of the MK. The new MK is better and faster and more portable than the old one.

Warp will also become Server/Client. This has fooled people into thinking that OS/2 will be turned into a Server only OS. What it means though, is that both the client and the server will share the same codebase. Why don't we call Windows NT 4 Workstation dead? It is also developed with this method. (It's even rumoured that you are able to upgrade your Windows NT Workstation to a Windows NT Server by just changing settings in its registry.)

Oh, yes, OS2PPC has a registry also, no more CONFIG.SYS/OS2.INI/OS2SYS.INI etc. in Warp 5. This seems to be an important change for IBM. Even Warp 4.1 is rumoured to be built in a Server/Client method.

Warp 4.1 has been in alpha for more than a month now and there is a projected release date at the end of the first quarter of 97. What features will make it into this release is unclear and we should not be surprised if there is a Warp 4.2 in autumn (with the features that did not make it in 4.1). IBM is not very clear on how the new release will be delivered. It might be free (as a "FixPak" for Warp 4) for download from the Internet. Due to the size of things nowadays lets all hope for a shrinkwrapped package!

Warp 5 is projected to be ready in the first quarter of 98. Warp 5 is still on the drawing board so don't expect IBM to keep that projection! They will probably try to coincide with Windows NT 5.0 whenever that will be ready. Warp 5 is supposed to be portable, that is, easy to implement on different platforms. Expect at least Intel, PPC and Alpha (DEC) versions.

Of course, all the above are speculations. While they most likely are the things that IBM is currently working on, there is a reason that IBM does not discuss these things in public: they might change their minds. No, not on their support for OS/2, but Warp 5 may be released in the fall with full Windows 95 support. Who knows...

The Unofficial Warp 5 FAQ is maintained by Martin Alfredsson, the president of JMA Software Technologies and the principal designer of HTMLview and MultiNote.

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