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Merlin...- by Stacy King

Waving the magic wand on the next version of OS/2 Warp!

I have the pleasure of introducing y'all to the next version of OS/2 Warp, code named Merlin, which has just entered beta. According to IBM PSP's web site, the general availability version will be out sometime in the second half of 1996.

Voice Type Dictation by IBM

I feel the biggest addition made to the new OS/2 has been the inclusion of IBM's VoiceType technology. This includes navigation by speech and voice dictation. At the Warp teleseminar on April 29, I saw David Barnes demo this technology and was greatly impressed at the possibilities. Imagine jumping to a homepage on the web by simply speaking a couple of words! You do have to configure a macro to do that, but it seems extremely easy. For the most part, this can replace what you would normally do with a mouse or keyboard. What is really nice is that this technology will run with any OS/2 supported sound card (i.e., Sound Blaster, etc.) which is usually included in most PCs as a standard feature. There is a base vocabulary of 10,000 words, and Merlin will allow up to 42,000 more to be added. Separate dictionaries will be available for people in professions such as law and medicine, and also will be available in 6 languages.

Connecting around the office and around the world

The new version of OS/2 will also have a built in web browser and use IBM's object oriented technology to make running around on the Intranet (office) and the Internet (you know this one) easier. You can also create icons to point and click (or speak at) for specific Websites and place them on your desktop. These icons (URLs -- Universal Resource Locators) can be placed into folders, and even stored on diskette. A new FTP (file transfer protocol) folder will provide similar results to the Web URL objects. You will be able to drag and drop files to the FTP server, and drag from them as well. No command line or web browser needed!

Specifically for your office, this version is being touted as a "universal client". What this means is that you should be able to connect to... well, just about anything! The more popular servers to connect to are: OS/2 Warp Server, LAN Server, Windows NT, Banyan Vines and Novell NetWare. Access to mainframes will be provided by the integration of IBM Personal communications/3270 over TCP/IP, allowing 3270 emulations to the host (mainframe) computer. The peer-to-peer functions that were introduced in OS/2 Warp Connect will also be here, and will work with similar NOS (network operating systems), but will be combined into one product (these were separate in OS/2 Warp Connect). And you won't have to stay in your office either! Merlin will include built in remote access and Mobile File Synchronization. So you can connect from your home or on the road to your LAN.

Espresso, anyone?

Included in Merlin will be Sun Microsystem's Java programming language, which means you can run Java applications and applets right from the OS. A Java ready Web browser will be integrated into the system, as well. This kind of integration means that you can grab applets and imbed them into your applications, such as a word processor. With the "Internet aware user interface" and VoiceType technology, you can grab them from the Internet, drop them on the desktop and launch them with a command... either mouse, keyboard or vocal!

Beauty is in the eye...

The desktop has also been redesigned for a cleaner look with new 3D shadowed icons, a 256 color palette as a default, bitmaps, backgrounds, a new system font and customizable colored notebook tabs in a new settings folder! Also included is the new WarpCenter, taken from Lotus Corp.'s SmartCenter technology. This launchpad replacement is object oriented for drag and drop ease of use, and built to help you quickly and easily launch applications. The WarpCenter floats, so it's easy to see and access at all times, and can also be turned off as well.

Does it work with...??

Merlin will support OpenGL API, from Silicon Graphics Computer Systems (the guys that made the computers that brought the Jurassic Park dinosaurs to life), that will let you develop complex 3D applications for technical and commercial companies. This technology has been licensed by some of the biggest companies around... AT&T, Cirrus Logic and DEC to name a few. It is an industry standard in engineering and entertainment.

Merlin will support fonts using the TrueType font specification. This means that you can take your Windows 3.1 document written in Arial and it will look the same in OS/2. And you can print it without changing the font. To any printer. OpenDoc runtime support is also to be found.

IBM's Developer API Extensions for OS/2 Warp are included too. Now known as Open32, it consists of 800+ Win32 APIs and 300 Win32 messages. Porting to OS/2 has never been easier, and this will allow developers to create for OS/2 and Windows at the same time.

As you can see, there is a lot to be excited about. In fact, as of sometime Tuesday, June 18th the beta request page had been closed due to the overwhelming response. (It opened for requests on the Friday before.) So if you were one of the many unlucky people who missed the first beta call, stay tuned to our special Merlin Supplement this month for first looks at many of the features I've listed above!


Stacy King is a Level 2 analyst for CTG at IBM. She is married to wonderful husband, Larry, has a 3 year old son, Brandon (future computer geek), is a member of the Central Texas PC User's Group, the OS/2 Co-SIG Leader for CTPCUG and a member of Team OS/2.

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