IBM Bids a Vague Adieu to OS/2

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-01-06

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.

Rocket Fuel