IBM software exec ritually denies OS/2 demise

OS/2 fans, rest assured, your favourite operating system is not about to have the plug pulled.

OS/2 fans, rest assured, your favourite operating system is not about to have the plug pulled.

In a ritual IBM denial, the company's software sub-supremo John W Thompson (the W is important because IBM's head of software is also named John Thompson, but with initial M) promised journalists in Auckland yesterday that OS/2's fate is secure for now.

"Every day I live with the issue of is OS/2 alive or not," says Thompson, who showed no impatience at what must be the most frequently asked question in the industry.

To the suggestion that the Merlin release of OS/2, due to be launched in September, is make or break for IBM's desktop operating system, Thompson says no such ultimatum has been made. "We'll spend the same on OS/2 in 1997 as we're spending in 1996," he says, without revealing the size of the sum.

On the positive side of the ledger, Thompson claims OS/2 brought in US$0.75 billion for IBM in the past year, up 40% on the year before. "There's no relevant reason or value in getting out of the OS/2 business," he says.

In what sceptics might write off as a last gasp effort to boost OS/2's market share, Thompson is implementing a new marketing strategy for the operating system. As general manager of IBM's personal software products, a position he's held since last September, he is responsible for developing and marketing the company's desktop software products.

He links OS/2's comparatively poor market penetration (it has about 10% of the desktop OS market to Microsoft Windows' 80%) to the poor job IBM has done promoting itself as a software company. "We're the biggest software company in the world," he points out, "having done US$12.6 billion of business last year.

"The fact that so few people know this is a fundamental marketing flaw that must be fixed," Thompson says.

He intends getting the message across by "spending most of my time outside the lab listening to customers rather than inside twiddling 0s and 1s. Hopefully this is a shift in the marketing mix that people will notice."

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