IBM has announced worldwide availability of the new version of its PC operating system OS/2, called OS/2 Warp 4. The operating system features support for Java technology, integration of the component architecture OpenDoc and IBM's speech-recognition technology, which allows users to run the computer with voice commands.
IBM officials are touting Sun's Java technology as the key element of the new version of the operating system.
IBM has also struck a deal with Citrix Systems to support its WinFrame/Enterprise multi-user application server software in an OS/2 environment, according to John W Thompson, general manager of IBM's personal software products. This will enable users to access 32-bit applications from a server on the network.
OS/2 Warp 4 will also feature embedded URLs so users can access them from the desktop, along with integrated Lotus Notes mail, Thompson says.
IBM, which recently licensed the Java language, is committed to implementing it across all of its operating systems and optimising it for the PowerPC processor line, says John Soyring, director of software strategy at IBM. "AIX version 4.2 will have Java built in, OS/390 (IBM's mainframe operating system) will support Java and Lotus Notes version 4.5 will include Java," Soyring says. "In fact future elements of OS/2 will be built on Java."
Java will allow developers to write an application once, regardless of the platform, says John M Thompson, senior vice-president and group executive of IBM's software group. All of IBM's operating systems will be Java-enabled by the end of the year, he says.
IBM's open strategy is to have middleware everywhere, Thompson says. Middleware will be found in database software, communications software, transaction processing software, application develpment tools, groupware and systems management. IBM will use Java for future operating systems development despite current shortcomings of the Java language, which include a lack of graphical user interface development tools, back-end database access and security features, IBM officials say. "Java does not connect to object components," Soyring says.
However, Sun has announced enhancements to Java for the fourth quarter this year, which will resolve many of the languages' shortcomings, Soyring says.
The native OS/2 Warp 4 version of Netscape Communications' Navigator will be available over the Internet for free starting in October. There are more than 14 million OS/2 users who will be able to use Navigator, says Bob Lisbonne, vice-president of client product marketing at Netscape.
OS/2 is priced at US$249 and is available immediately.