Why Warp isn't ready for prime time. . . yet- by Bernard B. Yoo

Anyone who has been using OS/2 Warp knows that it is very stable, supports more applications than any other desktop operating system, and comes with powerful internet access utilities. Despite all these positive aspects of Warp, many computer users are unwilling to make the switch. There are reasons for this. First of all, OS/2 is not quite as easy to install and configure as it should be for the home market. Second, most users do not have enough RAM to realize the performance benefits of Warp. Third, there is a relative lack of "mainstream" applications and device driver support. Finally, there is the lack of publicity. For these reasons, OS/2 Warp, in its current form, is not ready for prime time.

When I say OS/2 Warp is not ready for "prime time", what I mean is that Warp is not ready for the "average computer user" who bought a preassembled computer with Windows and a bunch of applications preinstalled. Computer aficionados like me have the patience, skills, and experience to prepare a computer for a new operating system, install the new system, and configure it. Computer aficionados can do whatever it takes to make the operating system work.

The "average computer user", on the other hand, does not realize that it is better to put Warp in its own HPFS partition. Even if they did, they probably don't know how to repartition their drive. When they try, they may not realize that this results in a loss of all their data. Then they blame the loss of the data on OS/2. Perhaps realizing this, IBM made the default "easy installation" use the dual-boot option in which Warp is installed on a FAT partition alongside Windows. This, of course, has the unfortunate effect that the "average computer user" does not get the performance, reliability, and long filename support of HPFS.

Once OS/2 is installed, the "average computer user" expects the device drivers for all his or her hardware to work. While computer aficionados know where to look for the latest device drivers, many "average computer users" may not even have internet access. Some device drivers don't quite work right. I am painfully aware of this problem because the driver for my video card does not work with Win-OS/2 sessions.

Assuming the "average computer user" does manage to successfully install and configure Warp, their first impression will likely be that Warp is slower than their previous operating system. Anybody who has used Warp on an 8 meg machine, typical of the machines sold in the past year, knows that it requires a lot of disk swapping. While the computer aficionado will anticipate this and either get more memory or use a smaller shell, like FileBar, the "average computer user" will not be so objective about it. Their decision will be made. "OS/2 Warp on my machine is slower than my previous operating system".

If the "average computer user" does have enough RAM to be happy with OS/2's speed, the next thing they will look for is applications. Sure, you can run Windows applications in OS/2. You can even do it seamlessly (if your video card driver supports it), but if you're going to be running Windows applications, why not just use Windows? Besides, Warp doesn't run Windows 95 applications and that seems to be the direction where application developers are heading. When the "average computer user" goes into a retail store, what they see is Windows applications, not OS/2 applications. OS/2 aficionados know about DeScribe and Mesa, but these are not "mainstream" enough for the "average computer user" to be comfortable with.

Finally, there has not been enough publicity for OS/2. OS/2 is already disadvantaged because most computer vendors preload their systems with Windows. OS/2 doesn't have the name recognition that Windows has. Most hardware manufacturers advertise their products' Windows compatibility, not OS/2 compatibility. In the face of these obstacles, it is crucial that IBM engage in a massive, high-energy marketing effort to make OS/2 successful.

Actually, considering the shortcomings I've just described, it's probably a good thing that there hasn't been much publicity. Can you imagine IBM pushing Warp on the average consumer? All the installation problems, configuration problems, device driver problems? As it is now, most OS/2 Warp users are computer aficionados, like me, who know what hardware is required to realize the benefits of OS/2, who know how to best configure OS/2, who know where to find new device drivers, etc. Knowing this, IBM may have intentionally limited its OS/2 Warp marketing effort, to attract only those people who are prepared to deal with these problems. OS/2 Warp is a very capable operating system, but for the reasons described above, it is simply not ready for prime time... yet.

editor's note: Are you a little miffed by the preceding article? Do you have some dissenting thoughts? If so, send in your complaints. But more importantly, check back next time for Bernard's follow-up article discussing why Warp will eventually succeed.

Bernard B. Yoo is a student of mechanical engineering and political science at Rice University. After using Windows 3.1 for four years he finally started using OS/2 in October '95.

Send a letter to the editor.

Contents | Previous Article | Next Article

This page is maintained by Falcon Networking. We welcome your suggestions.

Copyright © 1995 - Falcon Networking