s OS/2 users, we've become accustomed to being beat up on for not using Windows. We've lost major applications, like WordPerfect, which gave us a certain amount of credibility when justifying our choice in operating systems. We've seen print publications like OS/2 Magazine wither away and watched helplessly as IBM continues to mishandle the marketing of an obviously superior product while Microsoft soaks up billions in profits peddling what can be called, at best, a cheap imitation of the real thing. All the while, we're treated to the continual chorus of naysayers who chant dirges celebrating the demise of an operating system which not only refuses to crash but also refuses to die. It's a wonder we aren't all a bit schizophrenic.
Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I believe that we're entering an era that holds some miniscule hope for OS/2 and other platforms. It wasn't all that long ago that a computer user trying to find any serious critique of a Microsoft offering in a print publication faced a thankless, herculean task. (Wasn't it PC Computing that heralded MS Office '97 as the most important development for the PC since the invention of electricity?) In fact, I often had the feeling that someone was manipulating the print media, particularly Ziff Davis publications, for a particular purpose that had nothing to do with honest reporting and evaluation and everything to do with a well known company from Redmond. (Please note: I am not making any allegations nor am I implying that I have evidence to support an allegation that such manipulations did, indeed, occur. I'm only expressing my feelings about this issue.)
Well, if such had ever been the case, I believe a new wind is blowing across the land, one that has a slightly different taste to it.
Like many of you, I have watched the United States Department of Justice proceedings against Microsoft with a certain amount of interest. At first, it seemed like the Same Old-Same Old. Then something rather fascinating began to happen. Here and there on-line I began to find articles and comments that weren't from dedicated OS/2 publications which were actually critical of Bill "The Whole World Really Wants to Run Windows... Really!" Gates.
But the most astounding moment for me so far happened back on December 18 when I surfed this particular Z(iff)D(avis)Net site and discovered that PC Week Labs had debunked Microsoft's claim that it is very difficult to remove Internet Explorer from the base (and, yes, that's definitely a pun you're looking at) operating system. I was aghast, amazed. Here, for the first time that I could recall, someone who wasn't using a Mac, Unix or OS/2 system was calling Microsoft out and making it stick. I write this many weeks later and it still astounds me!
Perhaps it's just my foolish youth, but I can't help seeing a small ray of sunshine peeking through the Windows. Almost as if to bolster this mood, a recent review of the OS/2 Workspace on Demand beta in LANTimes (December 18, 1997; vol 4, issue 26, page 16) was, on the whole, upbeat and encouraging, giving WSOD two "Good" and three "Excellent" ratings and ending with a reserved recommendation to buy. Hell, the review even made the cover! (Ok, it was a small piece of the upper right corner of the cover right next to the publication's logo and it didn't take up more than two square inches, but when was the last time you saw anything with OS/2 on it taking up any part of a cover on any print publication that wasn't Indelible Blue's latest catalog?)
My friends, it appears that the Microsoft dynasty may have a few chinks missing from its Teflon coating and I, for one, believe that we should make the most of this opportunity. How? First, for those of us who live in the U.S., contact your elected representatives and tell them that you want increased support for the Department of Justice efforts. Let them know how the Redmond monopoly has damaged the competitive nature of the PC market. Back up your demands with hard facts. Tell your representative that you resent being forced to buy a Windows '95 license just because you want to buy a new system. Complain -- politely, of course -- till you're blue in the face. You might also send some e-mail to Ralph Nader mentioning the dangers that a Windows-only world represents. A note of encouragement will also further the cause.
Second, support your OS/2 vendors. Splurge in January for some new OS/2 native software and show the people who have continued to support the end user that we appreciate their support. If you have some OS/2 shareware that you haven't registered yet, pony up the bucks now. Even if you only have $10 or $20, every penny counts. If you're terribly strapped for cash this month, e-mail a note to a vendor who supports OS/2 and say thanks. These people love to hear from us and we need to make sure they're aware of our appreciation for their efforts.
Third, if you've recently bought a system and had to pay for a Windows '95 license, fill out the necessary paperwork and get your money back. You'll feel better, you'll look better (everyone looks better smiling and, hey, getting money back from Microsoft ought to put you in a great mood) and your machine will run better. You'll also send a message to Microsoft in the one area that they can't ignore forever: their bank account.
Got some other ideas? Share them with me and we'll make sure they get posted here in a future issue.
We all know the answer to this question, but for those who tuned in late, let me say, "Yes, definitely!" Does this mean we'll see a huge revolution that has every box in the world happily Warping away? Of course not. The Windows installed base is too huge to be tossed out like last night's Kleenex and, frankly, I wouldn't want to see every PC in the world running Warp. If that happened, I'm afraid we'd wind up with the same unacceptable situation on our hands that we have now; one hyper-dominant product that survives on marketing savvy, not performance.
In the end, we will all be best served on that day when the OS/2 piece of the pie widens enough to keep Microsoft's engineers -- not their lawyers and marketers -- on their toes. We may have quite a wait ahead of us, however, optimist that I am, I believe that day just got a little bit closer.
Pete Grubbs is a self-described OS/2 wonk, a doctoral candidate in English literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a part-time faculty member at Penn State and is currently developing a copy editing/creation service, The Document Doctor, which tailors documents for small businesses.
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