OS/2 Seer -- Who, Me?

I end up speaking with a lot of OS/2 Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) every month, both on the telephone and electronically and one question they keep asking me is: "what do you think of future of the OS/2 market?"

It's not just ISVs that ask either; I've had readers, members of the press and others broach the same topic on many occasions. I guess a lot of people have great interest in the answer to the question.

I'm not a fortune teller (and I try not to give anyone the impression that I am) but I do have an answer. My opinion isn't based on exhaustive market research and, more importantly, is really only relevant to the end-user market (as opposed to the business market). But I didn't just make it up either. My answer to the question is the sum of two years of rather close examination the OS/2 market and constant feedback from ISVs and customers alike (after all, I have a rather serious interest in OS/2's future too!).

This is what I tell ISVs and readers when they ask me what I think of the future of the OS/2 market:

I think that some ISVs have doubts about OS/2's future and are hedging their bets by "going cross-platform". End-users, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly and firmly committed to OS/2.

Whenever I get into conversations on the topic, I can't help thinking of the old joke about the chicken and the pig and the difference between being "involved" and being "committed". I'm sure most of you have heard the joke but for those who haven't, it goes like this:

To make a bacon and egg breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

OK, maybe it's not the most relevant analogy but it still makes me laugh. In the same way, ISVs seem to be involved with OS/2 while end-users remain committed. Maybe for the same reasons -- ISVs have invested a part of their time but could choose to go elsewhere; end-users have chosen to jump in "whole hog" (sorry for the pun) and make OS/2 their lives.

"But wait," you say, "what's this about ISVs having doubts about OS/2's future?!" Don't worry, I'm not predicting doom. ISVs are like any business and they must constantly make decisions on how to allocate their development energies. Also, many corporations follow a model where they feel they must continue to grow every year or else they have failed. Some of these companies, if they don't succeed especially well in the OS/2 market, sometimes choose to investigate other "larger" markets.

This is the normal course of events in any industry, and just like in other industries, as some companies fail or choose to leave the OS/2 market, others with newer and more aggressive ideas are moving in to take their spots. Overall, I'm not worried about this cycle.

And as far as our readers go, OS/2 end-users do seem to be very committed to OS/2. In fact, our Reader Survey last month reveals just how committed they are: only 4.4% told us that they would cease using OS/2 some time in the coming 24 months. That's pretty serious consumer loyalty!

Speaking of which, our monthly Reader Surveys are big hit; since we implemented them two months ago, response has been very favourable and great suggestions for new surveys have been pouring in. Unfortunately, since we want to keep each month's survey short enough that it is convenient for readers to fill out, we can't include everyone's suggestions -- but we do appreciate them. Please keep them coming!

In other news... You may have noticed a small change on our Front Page and Table of Contents this month. There is a small logo with a link to EDM/2 on our Front Page and a link in our T.O.C. to take readers to that same site for extensive OS/2 programming articles.

Carsten Whimster, editor of EDM/2, and I have had a professional relationship for some time and we have great respect for the coverage and quality of each others' magazines. EDM/2 is the authoritative source for OS/2 development info. The editorial content is great, and the quality of the magazine is very high. I hope that if you are interested in OS/2 development and have not given it a look before, you will now.

Also, some big news is rumbling on the horizon this month. OS/2 end-users have long complained that IBM doesn't support them well enough or promote OS/2 the way it should. Now, a dedicated group of OS/2 supporters has taken that task on themselves and is currently organizing a grass-roots event for OS/2 SOHO and end-users: Warpstock.

One of the organizers, Esther Schindler, summed up the purpose of the event: "IBM has plenty of communication mediums with messages geared toward the corporate user. This event is for the rest of us -- the person using OS/2 to enhance the quality of life, no matter what the context."

Warpstock is tentatively planned to be held late this year (probably in October) in southern California. Currently, the event is in the organizational stages and a small "steering committee" has been formed to work out the logistics. Planned and/or possible events will include OS/2 software vendors showing their wares, demos, technical presentations and more!

Likening the event to another successful conference created and run by end-users, Felix Cruz of SofTouch Systems said, "You're seeing the birth of a new organization in front of your eyes. With good luck and good management, Warpstock could be as successful as MacWorld."

Hopefully every OS/2 user with travel ability will make the trek for this one-of-a-kind event. Schindler commented, "This is the sort of event that gets people to climb into a VW Van and drive cross country, with a bunch of like-minded souls. The journey becomes as much part of the fun as is the Warpstock itself." I'm game. Anyone going toward California?

Interested parties can find more info at the Warpstock home page or by subscribing to the Warpstock discussion list:

Send an e-mail to majordomo@sj.znet.com with nothing in the subject line and the words

subscribe warpstock [your e-mail address]
substituting your own e-mail address where it says '[your e-mail address]' above.

Stay tuned to OS/2 e-Zine! in the coming months for all the scoop on Warpstock!

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