OS/2's Time... Revisited- by Bernard B. Yoo

In the December 1995 and January 1996 issues of OS/2 e-Zine! I wrote about why OS/2 wasn't yet popular and why it soon would be. It's been a while since then and it is time for me to see how well my predictions did. First a brief summary.

In the December 1995 issue, I wrote that OS/2 wasn't yet popular because of:

Then, in the January 1996 issue, I wrote that OS/2 will ultimately succeed because of: As I write this article, it is early June, 1996. Much has happened to both prove and disprove the points I made in my earlier articles. I think the reasons I stated six months ago for why OS/2 wasn't popular are generally accepted. My predictions regarding the future success of OS/2 are more interesting though. Let's take a look at them one at a time.

I predicted improvements in OS/2's installation and configuration routines. Since no new versions of the Warp client have been released since OS/2 Warp PowerPC Edition in December, we cannot conclusively determine whether or not OS/2's installation routine has improved.

However, according to a recent press release, Merlin, the next Intel-based version of OS/2, will come with a comprehensive device-driver CD-ROM that will help users obtain the latest drivers through the World Wide Web. This press release also mentioned GRADD, a new graphics device driver architecture that will make device driver development for OS/2 much easier.

I predicted an increase in the number of machines preloaded with OS/2. While there are a few companies now offering machines preloaded with OS/2, such as Indelible Blue, the ads from the major computer vendors still don't mention OS/2 and the computers on display in all the retail stores I visit still have either Windows 95 or Windows 3.1 installed. It is interesting to note that many of the major vendors no longer specifically advertise their Windows 95 preloads and many vendors seem to be continuing to offer Windows 3.1. Although it is good news that Windows 95 is not taking over as many thought it would, this still does not necessarily mean a noticeable increase in the number of machines preloaded with OS/2. On this point, so far I have been wrong.

On my third prediction, maturing hardware, I was right on. In the past, Windows 3.x had an advantage over OS/2, because it ran relatively well on systems that were too underpowered for OS/2. However, to take full advantage of today's increasingly powerful hardware, the user now needs the sophistication of OS/2. Powerful Intel-based systems, with Pentium processors and 16 megs of RAM are rapidly becoming the "basic" system. Also, RAM prices have dropped to a record low and are still dropping, allowing many current computer owners to upgrade their memory if not their entire system. By the end of the summer, the basic system will consist of a fast Pentium processor and 16 to 24 megs of RAM. When Merlin is released (about this time), it will be well-poised to take advantage of this extra power with built-in Java support, OpenDoc, and VoiceType dictation.

My next point about the emergence of innovative software developers has also come true. OS/2 software developers are continuing to produce superb products, unmatched in performance and flexibility by the offerings of any other major desktop operating system. Stardock Systems has released Object Desktop v1.5, a performance and feature enhanced version of its unmatched desktop enhancement product. Stardock is getting ready to release Object Desktop Professional, which has the ability to effortlessly view a wide range of file formats. SPG has outdone its untouchable graphics software package, ColorWorks, by releasing V2. SPG also gave a set of enhancements to current version 1 users free of charge and dropped the price of the enhanced V1+.

Mike Cowlishaw, the developer of REXX and the REXX-based GoServe Web and Gopher server, is developing NetREXX, a programming language that promises the ability to develop Java applications faster, more efficiently, and more easily, while maintaining the ability to be run by any Java-capable Web browser.

The steady flow of OS/2 shareware apps (see Gary Hammer's "Must Have OS/2 Applications") further adds to the already large, albeit seldom-noticed, base of powerful, robust, and flexible OS/2 applications.

On the point of increasing advertising, I lose again though. Because I can't bear to continue agonizing over why IBM doesn't advertise OS/2 more, I've come up with my own explanations. First, IBM is a "solutions provider" who will work with any OS that its clients want to use, even if that means using a competitor's OS. Perhaps IBM is afraid that by specifically promoting OS/2, it will scare off customers who want to use another OS. Second IBM may think that OS/2 is still not a mature product for the same reasons I outlined in my December 1995 article. Third, IBM may prefer to solicit the corporate/business market, where its clients are more willing to pay for the services they receive. Finally, and most interestingly, IBM may feel that OS/2 sales are doing just fine without advertising, and this takes us to my final prediction from January.

In the second OS/2 Warp Teleseminar, John Thompson stated that 15 million units of OS/2 have been sold and that more than half of these sales occurred since the introduction of Warp. Despite the lack of media attention and advertising, OS/2 continues to show strong sales. The success of OS/2 may be the best-kept secret in the software industry.

To sum up, my predictions of maturing hardware, innovative software developers, and increasing popularity have all come true, while my predictions of increasing preloads and increasing advertisement have not. My prediction of improved installation remains inconclusive. While three out of five is not a particularly good score for predictions, I think I was correct on the three most important points. Paradoxically, despite the severe lack of preloads and advertising, OS/2 is doing quite well.


Bernard B. Yoo is a student of mechanical engineering and political science at Rice University. After using Windows 3.x for four years, her finally started using OS/2 in October '95.

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