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Chris Wright- by Christopher B. Wright
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Christopher B. Wright is a technical writer in the Richmond, VA area, and has been using OS/2 Warp since January 95. He is also a member of Team OS/2.

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A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing in a Den of Lions, Part 1

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A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing in a Den of Lions, Part 2 ("A Niche For All Seasons")

Last issue I'd planned to follow up my introduction to this topic with a description of the strengths of the OS/2 community and how those strengths can help us create our own niche in the computer world. Based on some of the responses I received from that article, however, I think it would be better that I elaborate on why I think Internet Publishing would be a great niche for OS/2.

IBM, whether they admit it or not, doesn't care too much about OS/2 as a client operating system. They want to continue selling Warp Server and getting their vendors to use Workspace On Demand as their client OS. This is, for them, a business decision: they haven't been able to sell OS/2 as a client in enough units to consider it an success, so they'll just ignore it and hope it eventually goes away.

However, the server has a lot of potential as an applications server, a file server, and a web server. The server is still being developed (the next version is code named "Aurora" and entering the beta testing phase.)

The client is still being supported, and still being updated via fixpacks and new drivers over the Internet. It's still a very stable and reliable operating system with one of the best user interfaces ever created for a personal computer. The client has excellent Internet tools and can connect to a wide variety of networks.

IBM's focus is the corporate consumer, concentrating on servers. IBM is no longer focusing on the client, though it continues to support it because IBM is IBM.

We, on the other hand, want a continually supported OS/2 client. We want IBM to be interested in OS/2 as both a client and a server operating system. We want IBM to actually, truly, and finally, make the commitment to make OS/2 succeed - or, at least, give someone else the opportunity to do so.

To do this, we need to be able to point to an example where OS/2 client is the preferred platform. It needs to be a market where there is no one dominant force, and where there isn't really a lot of momentum behind one platform.

This niche, of course, is the World Wide Web.

Why the World Wide Web? Because it's visible. Because it's trendy. Because the web is a results-oriented, rather than process-oriented medium. People view the web through a web browser, not an operating system! Whether or not the server hosting the HTML pages is running Microsoft NT, MacOS, BeOS, Linux, OS/2, Solaris, or any other operating system is irrelevant to the end user -- so long as he or she can browse the pages, buy the products, take the surveys, download the software, listen to the streaming audio, or interact in the bulletin board.

To the developer, however, the operating system can be very, very, very important. Ever spent hours working on a web page, only to have your Windows 95 machine lock up just from trying to scroll down a page of text in Microsoft FrontPage? I have; it's frustrating. Ever had your machine crash because you were working on a web page in one program, updating the web page graphics in another program, and editing the articles in a third, and run out of resources? I have; it's frustrating. Ever spent hours and hours and hours trying to configure a CGI script, and had it not work because something on your system was configured incorrectly? I have; it's frustrating. Ever wanted to host your own web page and tried to calculate the combined hardware and software costs of everything involved? I have; it's depressing.

OS/2 has a lot of answers to these problems. It's stable. It multitasks better than most client operating systems out there today. It's a lot easier on your system resources than some other, more popular operating systems. And while it might not have as elegant a set of tools available to web designers as, say, the Windows 9x platforms, it probably has everything you need to create and manage complicated sites with a minimum amount of time and effort.

And, best of all, the people visiting your site won't care. They won't even know, unless you tell them.

This is the web's advantage: as long as the web browser can understand the HTML code, no one cares what operating system the site is being hosted on. No one cares what operating system was used when the site was designed. But if you can demonstrate that an operating system will give you a better, more reliable development environment, if you can convince people that an operating system will more consistently handle a large amount of web traffic with fewer hassles to the webmaster or sysadmin, and if you can show people that it can do this MORE CHEAPLY than other operating systems, you suddenly have people's interest. More to the point, you suddenly have people interested who may have felt previously that they couldn't afford to do what they wanted to do. Most specifically, you have now captured the attention of small businesses, home offices, and up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

People who start businesses are looking for cheap and reliable ways to reach their goals. People who want to start a business and sell products over the web are looking for a solution that will both a) work and b) be affordable and c) be expandable when it takes off. People who are just starting out in their private ventures are looking for ways to get the most return out of the last amount of money. I feel that OS/2 can be sold, and sold successfully, to these people.

"Oh, you want to have a dedicated web site for your 10-person business? Well, try using OS/2 Warp 4 client with the Apache web server. It's much, much cheaper than an equivalent NT solution, and when your business grows you can get Warp Server (or Aurora) if you need more power later on down the line..."

You get the idea.

This niche needs to be a market that can be tied into IBM's original focus. If IBM is only interested in OS/2 as a server operating system, we need to choose a client niche that can increase sales and interest in Warp Server. If IBM can see people choosing Warp Server as a web server because Warp Client is such a great web development platform, IBM will be more interested in developing Warp Client.

"While you're at it, have you considered putting OS/2 on some of your end-user machines? It's cheaper than Windows NT, Year 2000 compliant, and behaves very well in a network environment. If you need to manage a lot of PC's at once, have you considered Workspace on Demand?"...

The art of carving out a niche is not to try and steal customers away from whatever tools they're already using to do the job, but to find people who haven't started doing the job yet. People starting a new business, setting up a web site, and the rest already know "where they want to go today," they just don't know how they're going to get there. Most people just starting out are willing to use a compact car until they can afford something fancier. If they find, to their delight, that the compact car is really a souped-up racer that was put in a lighter frame just to squeeze that much more oomph out of the engine, they'll stick with it.

That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is the niche we need to be aiming for, and why it needs to focus on the web.

Ok, next issue I'll talk about what we have going for us that can help this dream come true. I promise.

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