Here We Go Again!!!- by Barry Brindisi

Here we go again! It seems that whenever I turn around, I hear something hauntingly similar to what I heard years ago.

I have been dealing with computers, in general, for about 14 years. Over time, I've seen basically the same thing occur again and again. In 1984, Apple came out with a revolutionary new computer called the Macintosh. It was the first commercially available graphically oriented computer. Unlike OS/2, its operating system was closely tied to its hardware. The Mac had a lot of the same features that we take for granted today, thirteen years later. One of these features is Plug 'N Play; another, the ability to handle multiple tasks at once. Sound familiar? It should. OS/2 has a number of similarities (as well as some distinct differences). The same is true for Windows NT and Windows '95.

A couple years after the Mac came out, IBM and Microsoft released a graphical shell to sit on top of DOS, thereby imitating what users of the Macintosh had been doing since '84. The main difference between these two OS's was that Windows was a graphical shell that sat on top of the operating system while the Mac was an entirely graphical OS and not merely a shell. You'd think that with its many strengths, the Mac would have dominated the market.

But as we all know, Microsoft had time to develop its new graphical shell and market it as an alternative to dealing with DOS while allowing computer users to use their existing software -- a very important factor when deciding what platform to use. At that time, Apple did not have any way for DOS users to keep their existing software and gradually migrate over to native Macintosh software. One should also remember that software and hardware were much more expensive in those days than they are now.

Largely because of these two factors, many users opted to stay put. Interestingly enough, this is no longer the case. You can get a PowerPC Mac for about the same price as a PC. For a little more money you can run your old DOS programs, as well.

In 1986, I was looking into the possibility of going over to the Mac. While investigating, I came across claims that I would hear repeated for years to come. Do these claims sound familiar? "The Mac is dead!", "There is no real software for it.", "Apple is going out of business!", "IBM may be buying Apple", "Apple is abandoning the Mac!", "Adobe is abandoning us, for the Windows platform."

If not, just substitute OS/2 for Mac and IBM for Apple. As for Adobe, they are still predominantly Mac based, just as Stardock is still predominantly OS/2 based and more than likely will remain that way. In fact, not one of these claims about the Mac has born any substantial amount of truth. Apple is still one of the top 500 corporations in the US. Their Macintosh hardware and software lines are doing quite well.

So what does all this have to do with OS/2 Warp and today's market? There is much that we can learn from history. People should try to remember that much of what we hear and read today has already happened in the past. And unfortunately, it will probably continue on like this in the future. Which is why it is important to know the facts of what has gone before and what is really happening today.

Here are some observations that I have been able to make:

Like the Mac, OS/2 is not dead; it is quite far from it. There are about 15 million OS/2 users and over 50 million Mac users worldwide. It should be noted that both IBM and Apple have spent millions of dollars on their respective platform and each company has thousands of developers working on it. This is not including the many third party developers for each platforms. From this, I would have to say that IBM is definitely committed to OS/2.

While I'm not sure about Apple, IBM makes several operating systems, several business applications (commercial and specialized) and a huge variety of computers ranging from mainframes to notebooks and their respective components. It is because of this that the media and Windows zealots love to claim that IBM isn't doing enough for OS/2. My suggestion to those zealots is to get Stardock's business simulation game, Entrepreneur and try maintaining a computer company the size of IBM. It definitely won't be an easy task. (By the way, the final version of Entrepreneur will be available on both OS/2 Warp and Win95.)

In spite all this, the media seems to be in love with proclaiming that the Mac and OS/2 are dead. Remember, these are the same folks that have sung the virtues of Windows 3.1 and did some target shooting at the Mac and other platforms since the beginning of the desktop computer industry. Though media predictions can be fun to read, they are often totally bogus. And they should always be taken with a grain of salt.

General computer magazines are great for reading about current trends in the computer industry and for finding out about new hardware and software. They are also great for finding out about the impact that certain events may have on you. Ideally though, they should only print the facts; personal biases and perceived popularity shouldn't enter into the articles that we read. However, this is almost never the case, which is why specialized online and print magazines exist. The key here is to be selective in where we get our information. I generally read PC Magazine and C|Net for general information and OS/2 e-Zine! and OS/2 Computing for my OS/2 related news.

The media is always going to be this way; they have been since the 1970's. Writing letters to the editors of magazines is one way to get them to report on the things that matter to you. Changing to a different magazine is another way.

OS/2 is a constantly evolving and growing operating system. It has been evolving since it was developed in 1987 and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

This is actually true for all software. Mac users have seen their favorite platform evolve from a little cube-shaped unit with components that could only be bought from Apple to a full-blown system that can use a variety of the same components that any PC can use. The same holds true for OS/2. There was once a time when we couldn't run our favorite Windows or DOS software on OS/2. As of OS/2 2.1, this no longer held true. At one time OS/2 ran only proprietary OS/2, DOS or Windows applications. Now it is the world's first OS with built in Java support.

As I stated, OS/2 is constantly evolving and changing to deal with an ever-changing future. I, for one, am glad that IBM is constantly working to improve OS/2 and further develop it to deal with the future. In a world where Microsoft is coming out with a network-centric operating system tailored for home users (Windows 97) and Apple is planning on upgrading the MacOS to include capabilities of the recently acquired NeXT operating system (code named Rhapsody), it's nice to be using an OS that those others will be compared to -- in the future.


Barry Brindisi has been dealing with computers since 1982 and has used a wide variety of computers and software. He is just starting on a freelance writing career.

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