OS/2 Has a Future—It Just Isnt with IBM

Opinion: IBM's "end-of-life" announcement for OS/2 is no surprise. The OS/2 community stopped depending on the company long ago.

Ive gotten a lot of e-mail today. "Did you see IBMs news? Theyre finally killing OS/2!" wrote several longtime acquaintances, pointing me at "Changes in support for IBM OS/2 Warp 4 and OS/2 Warp Server for e-business" on IBMs site.

Many of those friends remember that I used to specialize in covering--and using--OS/2; that I taught corporate training classes about the operating systems internals; that I wrote books and magazine articles about OS/2 applications; that I was a founder of the worlds largest OS/2 user group.

Sometimes, I can see the smirk between the lines. A few of these messages are written with same the subtle snarkiness in which they might say, "I see that your ex-husband just got married again," as though they want to see if Ill burst into tears.

Sorry, guys. If you want tears, youll have to turn elsewhere.

This "OS/2 is dead, yet again" announcement is irrelevant. Not because I expect the operating system to wallop the competition, but because OS/2 already moved on … and, for several years, IBM has had almost no part in that evolution.

The IBM announcement isnt unexpected, and honest, it isnt a big deal. Back in 2000, at the WarpTech Conference in Phoenix (which I helped to invent and organize), IBM said that end-of-life would be in 2006.

Since the Passport Advantage contracts are yearly, they have to quit selling the product in 2005 if theyre to close the door at the end of 2006.

IBM had already been doing its best to wean enterprise customers away from OS/2; companies committed to being Big Blue shops chose another technology back in 1996 or 1997, when IBM said thered be no new desktop client.

They tried to shove all sorts of alternatives at its OS/2 customers, ever since the wind was taken out of the products sails by a Lou Gerstner comment in 1995. (They had to punch several holes in the sails to do so.)

First, IBM tried to tell customers that Java was the way of the future; then, when IBM adopted Linux in a big way, that was the technology force-fed. With poor results, in many cases; most of the customers who did drop OS/2 (and there were certainly plenty who did) turned to Microsoft instead.

Not because of Linuxs unsuitability to task (I like Linux, and use it on my own servers) but because it was evident that IBM would be behind any innovative technology as long as they werent the ones creating it.

Next Page: A long history.