system has plenty to recommend it,
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #293 June 6, 1995 High Tech
but the corporate
clout of Microsoft will be hard to beat
back, I suggested
that despite a lot of hype in the computer media, and even TV
people simply were becoming indifferent to things like battling
systems. They just want systems that work and let them get the job
sweeping generalization, that one contained a core of truth, and an
overlay of exaggeration. And I went on to contradict my own conclusion
by writing, a few weeks later, about the still-to-be-released Windows
'95, adding my voice to the clamor.
I have been
called upon to comment on other operating systems, if only to attempt
to prove that I'm not an unwitting pawn of Microsoft. Reader Roger
Zulleg urged me to write about IBM's
Warp, so here we go.
less than 20
years ago, Microsoft consisted of two people--Bill Gates and Paul
Allen--renting space next to a laundromat in a
mini-mall in New Mexico, peddling BASIC computer language on paper
tapes to purchasers of Altair personal computer kits. At
that time, the computer industry really consisted of IBM and the
so-called seven dwarfs, which meant everybody else. Most high-tech
companies scrambled for a tiny niche in an industry completely
dominated by Big
Microsoft has taken
on the image of the company that everyone loves to hate, while IBM,
after frittering away an early domination of the personal computer
market, ends up playing the unexpected role of underdog (even though
IBM still has sales figures several times Microsoft's).
brings us to OS/2,
IBM's operating system for personal computers, also known as Warp,
the favourite of Czech nuns everywhere, or so one amusing TV commercial
would have us believe.
while Windows '95 was delayed from Christmas to spring, and from spring
until August, Warp was in the stores--a real alternative for anyone
who found Windows 3 a bit too fragile for work in the real world.
previously taken advantage of IBM Canada's offer of free copies of
its predecessor, OS/2 version 2.1 on CD-ROM. But it demanded
convoluted command-line strings to create a couple of boot disks just
to start the installation. Then it failed to recognize my CD-ROM,
and stopped dead. So that version went back on my shelf.
I got a copy. But I waited a couple of weeks, and managed to avoid
the initial printing, which failed to install if users had backup
configuration files on their hard disks, and thereby burned a bunch
of journalists, and generated more than a little bad press. Oops.
program started off better than that of version 2.1: no silly
strings to get started. But it too failed to recognize my CD-ROM drive,
to get the
manual out, right? Aha! I could buy two dozen or so floppy disks,
and create a floppy disk set--but only by typing yet another long
command-line string two dozen times! But it's all in the cause of
journalism and integrity.
time, the installation
went further, and instead of failing to recognize my CD-ROM, it failed
to recognize my (SCSI) hard drive.
technical support, and a 1-800 phone number. Unfortunately, the person
on the other end simply left me with the impression that I was out
of luck, and that he really wasn't very interested in my problem.
(Since then, others have suggested that I could have found information
and drivers that might have solved my problems on IBM's bulletin board,
but by then, IBM had already lost me as a potential customer.)
installed Warp on a couple of other machines... both from CD-ROM and
from floppies. It can be done. In fact, some have suggested that my
tale of woe represents a small minority of installation attempts.
claim to have
spent anywhere near the amount of time with Warp that I have with
a bunch of different beta versions of Windows '95... but I think I
can pass on a few conclusions anyway.
lives up to a
lot of its advertised hype. It is a stable operating system that runs
nearly all DOS and Windows programs, in many cases as well or better
than DOS or Windows.
* The Plus
free with Warp may be the software bargain of the decade. For around
$100 or so, you get the operating system, along with IBM Works--a
basic word processor/spreadsheet/database/etc. package--a solid
connect kit (although it's not as easy as it ought to be to connect
to a non-IBM service provider), and more.
from the Plus
Pack, however, there are still too few native OS/2 applications. While
OS/2 runs Windows applications, most users don't see much reason to
switch from running Windows applications via Windows to running them
via OS/2. IBM quotes several thousand native OS/2 programs, but most
of these are custom-written, specialized applications of little use
to anyone outside that single company or industry.
of Windows '95 applications is released this fall, IBM will again
be forced to play catch-up, because this version of Warp won't be
able to run them. Ironically, OS/2's abilities to run existing DOS
and Windows software is working against it here--software developers
can produce a single Windows version, and the seven million OS/2 users
can run it as well. So why bother producing a native OS/2 version,
they ask, even though that means forgoing the benefits of a native
can be a relatively
steep learning curve for Windows users trying to switch to OS/2. Things
that you think will work require looking up in the manual.
* As my
suggest, while Warp and family supports most of the common PC
it needs to do better at supporting the huge range of PC hardware
add-ons--right out of the box. Driver support is increasing, but
a user they have to look for a file on a bulletin board is not good
enough for an operating system with an eye on a mass market.
respectable sales, especially over the past year, and has become a
particular favourite among certain segments of computer users--people
with a particular grudge against Microsoft, and people who love to
tinker with the hardware and squeeze out every last drop of
speak, IBM is
releasing versions of Warp with more features--built-in Windows
networking connections--although they've fallen behind on efforts
to get OS/2 up and running on IBM's PowerPC machines. Still, Warp
has a lot going for it: an attractive interface, a tested operating
system that will almost certainly prove to be much more stable than
anything as new as Windows '95 (and Warp is here now). And the nun
commercial is pretty cool.
Warp's users, despite their passion, will remain a deeply committed