[Mercede Computer Associates -- PC's for a Warped World!]

Our Man Mike- by Kel Brown


Where is Bill Gates when you need him? Seven years ago, he was standing at the podium, giving speeches that began, "OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time". Today we are without the benefit of Bill's evangelism. OS/2 suffers more from the lack of a champion than it does from its critics crying "OS/2 is dead".

Microsoft's employees are believers. Ask them and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that every Microsoft product is the greatest piece of software ever compiled. Emperor Bill himself comes out like an animatronic figure at Disneyland, waving his arms and telling us how much closer we are to Microsoft's dream of "a computer in every home, and Microsoft software running it," every time they release a bug fix. To the guys who do the grind at Apple, the Mac is a religion. And with the return of Steve Jobs to Apple it won't be long before the ranks of the faithful grow, due in large part to Jobs' own fanaticism.

On the other hand, finding an IBM employee that knows what OS/2 is, never mind where you can purchase a copy, qualifies as one of three miracles necessary for sainthood.

There is no doubt that IBM is moving copies of Warp, but what they are not doing is getting out there pitching it to potential customers. The two largest banks in Canada (Royal Bank and CIBC) are now both using Warp. IBM Canada has not taken advantage of this sweep to jam the local airwaves, update their brochure or work with the banks to release a native OS/2 version of their PC Banking software (Honourable mention goes to Roma Devera in the ICS department at CIBC who knew the exact Win-OS/2 settings to get the Windows software they give their customers running optimally).

Someone at IBM should borrow Denis Leary from Lotus for an afternoon and get him to do what he is good at; getting in the face of the viewing public and telling them what's good for them. In this case, OS/2 Warp. As good as Denis is, that 'someone' at IBM with enough sense to realize that a good product needs to be seen to sell is who we need to find. We need an individual who is on our side, who wants OS/2 to win, who will say and do the things that need to be said and done to put OS/2 in the minds of the people selling and buying PCs.

If exposure is what will win the war for the desktop then Apple has the right idea. I went to a promotional show last month where Apple employees baited university staff and students with free coffee and muffins to get them to listen to what the Mac could do for them. The message most often repeated by the speakers was, "Apple is not dead!". IBM should be giving the lessons on how to revive a dead product, not taking them. The boys at big blue should take their cue from Apple and get out there and inform people. If potential customers don't know why they should be using OS/2 then they won't want to use OS/2.

Who is best suited to promote OS/2? John Ominor would be my choice, but IBM doesn't work for him yet.

Who else has the will and the drive to do it? Brad Wardell has done and continues to do more than can possibly be expected from someone outside of IBM, but he is just not in the right position to make a difference.

Who is in a position to make a difference? Not Lou Gerstner. Mr. Gerstner is in charge of frying IBM's big fish and his time is much too valuable to spend on just OS/2. (Don't get me wrong, we want Lou behind us, but we will have to get someone else to do the pushing.)

We need a go to guy, an OS/2 guy. Not the guy who runs WarpCity but the guy who runs OS/2. We need J. Michael Lawrie, head of IBM's Personal Software Product's (PSP) division. Some might argue that by virtue of his position Mr. Lawrie is already doing everything in his power to increase sales. He has been given the task of improving OS/2 and increasing sales for the business market, what IBM is now calling a "connected" user. However, we must persuade him of the unrealized potential of the home market. We must show him what he needs to do to hold on to the faithful and how to bring in new users.

And they will listen! It only took me three messages before I got a phone call from IBM. They let me rant for as long as I wanted, dutifully taking down any point I cared to make. Mail him. Mail Lou. Mail often. Talk to them about why they have not made an announcement about a native OS/2 version of BackWeb. Ask them how long it will be before they release support for USB (Universal Serial BUS). Tell them how outraged you are that Creative Labs dropped support for OS/2 because IBM could not keep up technologically. Let them know what more you, one of their current users, need OS/2 to do for you. With enough motivation Mike and Lou can become the frothing at the mouth, chest beating, OS/2 e-Zine! reading, pulpit pounding, Warp powered berserkers they need to be.


Kel Brown is a Math and Computer Science major at Saint Mary's University. He is an avid OS/2 supporter and a member of Team OS/2.

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