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A long time ago, IBM and Microsoft still were great pals. At first, Microsoft developed DOS for IBM PC's, and later on, the company started - again by order of Big Blue - the development of OS/2, or Operating System 2. Bill Gates once said: "OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time. As the successor to DOS, which has over 10 000 000 systems in use, it creates incredible opportunities for everyone involved with PCs." But all fairy-tales come to an end: Microsoft and IBM split up a long time ago. That was because Microsoft started to develop its own graphical operating system: Windows, and that during the development of the joint-venture between IBM and Microsoft. IBM felt deceived and decided to continue development of OS/2 itself. Debugging and rewriting large portions of OS/2's source code led to a new 32 bit operating system that was rock-stable. When both operating systems appeared on the market, Microsoft and IBM faced each other. With the popularity of Windows and OS/2, the competition between the two former pals grew. The final collision had place in 1995. OS/2 Warp 3.0, a powerful upgrade of OS/2, had just appeared, and after some months, Microsoft introduced its Windows 95. Though OS/2 had been released some months earlier, and seemed extremely fast and stable, most PC users decided to wait to see which way the cat jumps. Next, Windows 95 was released with such a great advertising campaign that mankind spontaneously forgot about the existence of other alternative operating systems. In 1996, Warp 4.0 (aka Merlin) was released, but in fact, Microsoft had already won. Today, Windows is considered to be the standard, but OS/2 is definitely not extinct! There are still a whole bunch of people who use this OS. People who claim not to be brainwashed by Microsoft's propaganda. In 2001, OS/2 Warp version 4.52 was released, which was just an updated version of OS/2 Warp V4. In the same year Serenity Systems International released eComStation, which is in fact the same as Merlin Convenience Pak, but is much cheaper because it is an OEM-product. IBM already announced not to release any future version of OS/2 :( For more information about the history of OS/2, see [[1]].

Another good link is: A Short History of OS/2.

Then, something I should not forget, is THE most-known article in operating systems publishing is "The OS that would not die". It's true, OS/2 outlived many death sentencies, but despite of that, OS/2 keeps living. The reason therefore is not that IBM wants to continue and sell OS/2 (not at all, since IBM wants to get rid of OS/2, and other IBM operating systems in general), but because OS/2 simply is the best. OS/2 has a great reputation with ALL true power computer users, and, though everyone doesn't want to admit it, it is the best operating system available nowadays. In the following section, I've inserted the most popular OS/2 article ever written.


December 3rd, 1997,

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the death of OS/2, an operating system which for some damn reason will not quit and lay down in the coffin like it's supposed to. This has been much to the chagrin of trade journalists nationwide who routinely predict its death each year, without fail, most recently by hissing it through clenched teeth.

When it began a decade ago it was the child produced by a marriage between IBM and Microsoft. It was supposed to be the replacement for MS-DOS, which at the time was only barely able to support large hard drives. But neither company shared quite the same vision for OS/2 and as a result Microsoft abandoned the product in favor of Windows shortly after the first couple of versions were released. IBM was left to take care of its remains, something it's still doing today, once making a stab for the home/SOHO user in 1994 with the roll-out of OS/2 Warp 3.

Microsoft never completely threw away their vision for OS/2 or their half of the code either. In 1993, what was to be "Microsoft OS/2 3.0" (not to be confused with Warp 3) came back to haunt us, this time under the name Windows NT 3.1. Even today, the two operating systems share a little common heritage. The Microsoft-designed High Performance File System (HPFS) is still the primary filesystem for OS/2. And NT, still able to run 16-bit OS/2 applications (the very few which exist), has been known to generate an out-of-place looking OS/2 error once in a while too.

Today, OS/2's position (officially) is as a server, universal client and Java platform. It's employed extensively in the world's banks, where up to 42% of large financial institutions in the US alone have considerable investments, with more coming on board as quickly as IBM can issue the press releases. It also boasts the fastest Java virtual machine this side of the x86, with the latest 1.1.4 release of the JVM benchmarking 7% faster than Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0. Yet in the hearts of the large gathering of home and SOHO users scooped up in the heady days of OS/2 2.1 and Warp 3, it's none of these things. OS/2 feels just plain more elegant and better built. It's flexible and it's powerful, and if you can live with the fact that it isn't "Headline Compliant" it's a great alternative to Windows.

Upon examination of OS/2's features you'll see that not many of them are that unique. Pre-emptive multitasking and resource-forked filesystems can be found on other platforms too. But there's nothing serious missing from its profile either. It's got all the plumbing of a fully decked-out, modern 32-bit OS packed into its guts. 10 years of constant development from some of IBM's top engineers have also put considerable stamina into OS/2. It's to the point where the average Warp box is so stable you could "chuck it down the stairs," so to speak.

Its flexibility, though, is perhaps its most popular asset. For example, the built in scripting language, Rexx, has allowed the developers of anything from a rinky-dink 100K text editor to a full-blown database to add a rich, versatile and extendible macro/scripting language to their applications with just a few lines of code. A user can then learn just one scripting language and instantly have control over all Rexx-enabled applications, no matter what vendor they may be from.

And the Workplace Shell, OS/2's GUI and the most visible part of the OS, is deliciously configurable too. Built on IBM's SOM (System Object Model) technology, it's possible for utilities to enhance the desktop by inheriting the behaviors of existing objects and building on them - resulting in a very consistent user interface overall. Entire ".EXE-less" applications have been developed this way, as well as others that stitch themselves so well into the desktop that it's hard to tell where the shell ends and the application begins.
It's no surprise then that OS/2 has gained a large and highly energized following of users. For some wacky reason people just keep falling in love with it. My own experience has shown that many switched after suffering innumerable problems with Windows; OS/2 was like a good dose of Pepto Bismol that made all (or most) of their problems go away by actually running Windows applications better than Windows itself!

This isn't to say these are the only applications OS/2 runs, of course. Contrary to popular opinion the OS/2 software market is alive and well, with several companies such as Stardock, TrueSpectra, Sundial and StarDivision producing a regular stream of top-notch, native OS/2 stuff.

Indeed, OS/2 users are more than willing to show up in force to display their support whenever needed. When the organizers of the recent OS/2 user-conference called WarpStock in Diamond-Bar, CA. last october planned for a turnout of maybe only 200 people, they got 400 instead. Which is not bad for an event that didn't get much publicity outside of word-of-mouth. It's even more interesting to note that the entire conference was a grassroots, user-sponsored occasion with very little corporate backing (IBM sent a few reps. but this was by no means an IBM show). Vendors left the event feeling "energized" and their faith renewed in the OS/2 market. There was electricity in the air.

Where OS/2's official direction is for the future, only IBM knows. Workspace on Demand, OS/2's answer to Microsoft's Hydra (or is that the other way around?), has the potential to revolutionize the way desktops are managed in the corporate environment. But for the users, things are traveling along a different road. They've adopted OS/2 as their own and are taking it where IBM was afraid to go.

I like to think we've been having a lot of fun on the way too.