IBM Bids a Vague Adieu to OS/2

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-01-06 Print this article Print

It's time to say goodbye. As of March 12, IBM will cease to offer the OS/2 Operating System.

Its time to say goodbye. As of March 12, IBM will cease to offer the OS/2 Operating System.

The tea leaves have been there to read since the middle of last year, when IBMs "OS/2 Strategy for 2002" document contained a key piece of advice under its fourth subhead, "What are IBMs recommendations?" Three sentences and a bullet list later, one finds the disarming suggestion to "deploy new e-business technology applications concurrently with existing OS/2 applications until platform neutrality has been achieved and then change the operating system."

Im irresistibly reminded of Napoleons Moscow strategy: Having invested huge resources in what turns out to be an empty conquest, IBMs goal is now to get home without losing what remains.

Id like to share two memories of my life with OS/2. First, I remember being told that my review of OS/2 Warp 3 would be the epitaph for the product. I said IBM had failed to lower sufficiently the risk of giving Warp a try. I noted that a failed installation attempt could leave a user with an unbootable machine and that only successful installation would put the user in a position to produce uninstall disks. Take-away No. 1: If youre only incrementally better than the competition, prospective customers have to be sure youll do them no harm.

Second, I remember writing the column about my personal move from OS/2 to Windows NT—driven, as I told readers, by the fact that first-rate development tools were burgeoning for NT but moribund for OS/2. Take-away No. 2: If developers dont love you, users will never even get to try you.

R.I.P., OS/2.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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