You might think that with all the talk about Microsoft's Windows NT momentum, IBM would be ready to toss in the towel on its OS/2 Warp platforms. Think again.
John Thompson, general manager of IBM's personal software products division, says all the hype and market research reports that predict OS/2 Warp and OS/2 Warp Server will be consigned to niche market status have strengthened, not altered, IBM's commitment to the platforms.
"We're not going to roll over and die because people don't think we can win against Microsoft on the desktop or Novell and Microsoft on the server," Thompson says. "OS/2 Warp and Warp Server are the linchpins of our Intel-based client/server offerings. We'll generate our own success."
Part of IBM's strategy is to embed as much leading-edge functionality as possible into the core OS/2 Warp operating system and OS/2 Warp Server network operating system.
For example, the next version of OS/2 Warp, code-named Merlin, will include integrated voice and speech-recognition capabilities, an internal World Wide Web browser and object-oriented technology for easy Internet access. It will also have a universal client that connects to any network operating system, including Windows NT Server.
Similarly, IBM has bolstered the fault tolerance, multitasking, integrated Java support and symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) in OS/2 Warp Server.
IBM's installed base, particularly in the financial and accounting industries, has remained loyal largely because of the technological excellence of the platform, according to International Data (IDC), a research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts.
An IDC survey released three months ago of 100 IBM OS/2 Warp and Warp Server users indicated that "97% were satisfied with OS/2 Warp, and 71% say they were very satisfied", says analyst Lee Doyle.
Ray Pratts, senior technical analyst at Variable Annuity Life Insurance in Houston, says although the OS/2 Warp products "are phenomenal", he fears that IBM's marketing won't be able to keep pace and that Variable could be left "high and dry with a niche market operating system".
Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says OS/2 has technological advantages, "but none of this will help OS/2 Warp Server and OS/2 Warp overcome their market share deficit. It's a legacy product family."
Thompson unequivocally rejects that notion. "If they were legacy products that IBM was going to abandon, I wouldn't introduce a new server, client and directory or SMP-enable the product or introduce voice and speech capabilities," he says.