Linfield's Line- by Kevin Linfield

Why Merlin will Fail.

As I put on my asbestos suit to prepare for the major flames I will receive, I hope that those who e-mail me will read the entire article, and not just the title. Yes, I said it. In my opinion, Merlin will fail. But before I go on and explain why I think it will fail, I should define what fail means. Will Merlin take over from Microsoft Windows and become the number one home operating system? Not a chance. Will Merlin make OS/2 the number one business operating system? Maybe, but I doubt it. Will Merlin sell as many copies as OS/2 Warp? Again, I think the answer is no. So without even beta testing it, I predict that Merlin will not sell as many copies as Warp, and that it will not penetrate the home market to any reasonable extent. Why?

Cost

When OS/2 2.0 was released back in 1992, I was able to buy a copy for $79.99 (Canadian). I had bought Windows 3.0 for $93.99 months earlier and would like to state that I feel that less than $100 is acceptable to the general buying public. Windows 95 with its $139 price tag is a bit too much, but with upgrades running around $100, you can see that Microsoft agrees with me here.

How much is Merlin going to cost? I could be wrong (and I hope so) but I've heard that we should expect it to retail for $250. I'm not even sure if that is $US or $CAN. IBM Canada hit the nail right on the head when they released Warp CD Pak. Forgoing the expensive manuals and free technical support, the Red Spined Warp and BonusPak in a small CD package retailed for only $49.95. Ever wonder why IBM sold over a million copies of Warp in December 1995 alone? Canadian retailers I talked to said that Warp CD Pak did extremely well, but now you are lucky if you can find a copy. Warp is back up to $109.99 retail.

But, you say, Merlin is Warp Connect, and it will be FullPak (with built in WIN-OS/2). This will add to the cost. Warp Connect retails for $250CAN. If we assume Merlin will retail for the same amount, how many Warp users do you think will buy it? Sure, many people reading OS/2 e-Zine! will because you (and I) are fanatical and will feel that it is worth it. But look at the masses. IBM had better get their target audience right. If they want to ignore the home user, millions of us will not be happy.

Hardware

Look at the backlash when Windows 95 required 8 MB of RAM and 60 MB of hard drive space. Users like the lowest common denominator. Even in comp.os.os2.beta an uproar was caused when it was learned that Merlin may not work on 386 computers. Many of you will tell those of us who have a 386 to upgrade to a 486, but many of us can't (or won't). If Merlin does not work on lower end computers (I guess now defined as 8 MB of RAM or a 386) then we have a choice of staying with Warp, or switching to a different operating system like Windows 95 or Linux.

By all accounts, Merlin will REQUIRE a 486 and 16 MB just to get the same performance Warp gets on a 386 with 8 MB of RAM. If you want Voice Type Dictation, expect to add more RAM and maybe a faster processor. You think the Workplace Shell (WPS) is bad in 8 MB? What do you think Merlin's will be like in 16 MB when you have the WPS Internet aware?

Marketing

Remember the ads for OS/2 2.0? I don't either. Remember the ads for OS/2 2.1? Someone shooting pool. Warp? Nuns talking in some foreign language. IBM can't market to the home user worth a damn. Remember Just Add Warp? IBM only advertised on the WWW, and even then, how successful was it? It took the release of Windows 95 to make OS/2 sell a million copies in a month, as people realized that they got suckered into Microsoft's blitz. And no matter what we think of Microsoft, they know how to market. Check out any issue of almost any computer magazine. Nice ads for MS Office. Not bad ads for Win NT. What about IBM's OS/2 Warp or Warp Connect? Latest I've seen is ads that say lots of banks use OS/2. Wow. That will make me want to buy their product.

Software

Although Microsoft has virtually crushed the competition for Windows software (where are the complete Win 95 software suites from Corel (WordPerfect) and Lotus?), no one has a lock on OS/2 software. In fact, only Lotus comes close, and if you've ever used Lotus SmartSuite for OS/2 you will be scared. Even the beta of Word Pro that I'm using is SLOW, buggy, a RAM hog, and single threaded. Yes, it is a beta, but I don't think that the GA will be much better. DeScribe Inc., Clearlook Corp., and Athena Designs (some of the bigger names in the OS/2 market) have had it tough lately. Are there any super packages looming on the horizon? I sure hope so, but the rumour mill has been awfully quiet.

Concluding Remarks

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see Merlin kicking butt in the home market. Then again, maybe IBM no longer cares about what that market segment thinks. I really hope that OS/2 does not become a niche player, destined to remain in the corporate world. But in my opinion, all signs point that way as I patiently wait for my beta copy of Merlin.
Kevin Linfield is a freelance Writer for Canada Computes! and OS/2 e-Zine!, Vice President of the Toronto OS/2 User's Group and maintainer of Linfield's List: Best OS/2 Freeware.

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