A Snapshot of the IBM Personal Operating Systems Strategy

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by Sam Kahn

As OS/2 developers, you are likely to be rolling out your own applications that exploit OS/2 2.1. These applications might range from personal productivity and vertical applications developed for resale, to internally developed line-of-business applications for large enterprises.

At the same time, we are all making investment decisions on our next wave of products. This article is intended to be a brief description of the IBM Personal Operating System (POS) decisions with respect to OS/2 2.x, the microkernel-based Workplace Operating Systems (Workplace OSs), and Taligent. IBM is keenly interested in how you're planning to invest in its platforms, versus other current and emerging alternatives.

All of us are making these decisions in tight economic times and in an environment of fierce competition; so we both need an investment strategy that balances our immediate and long-term needs.

We are investing in enhancements to OS/2 2.x because that is where the largest immediate opportunity is. At the same time, we recognize that RISC price/performance will soon make it very attractive in the PC market, and that Intel architecture products are becoming much more powerful and are driving into the workstation market. We need an operating system base that will let our customers take advantage of both RISC and CISC (Intel) architectures. The Microkernel-based Workplace OSs will be our solution.

However, Microkernel and related technologies provide much more than just portability. They enable a new level of modularity within the operating systems that dramatically reduces the overall system complexity. They will let us be more responsive to our customers at an affordable development expense; and allow other vendors to more easily add or enhance parts of the operating system, such as device drivers, file systems, emulators, and much more.

We have featured OS/2 as The Integrating Platform, based on its ability to run OS/2 2.x, OS/2 1.x, DOS, and Windows applications concurrently. At the same time, we are recommending that all OS/2 applications be fully 32-bit to take full native advantage of both RISC and Intel 32-bit architectures. We also encourage you to consider moving or creating functions as Personality Neutral Servers. This lets your code run directly on the Microkernel, and be independent of the operating system (personality). One way to think of this environment is the notion of client/server within a single system. This has some obvious advantages for applications such as databases, which service users in one or more application environments. Other applications, such as key functions of a spreadsheet package or word processor, can be separated as servers that operate asynchronously and are independent of the user interface. These portions of applications are good candidates for Personality Neutral Servers, while the user interface itself runs in the personality and conforms to its style.

As IBM concentrate on the internal structure of Workplace OSs, we also must concentrate on user-visible functions. IBM is investing heavily in object technology, because it has reached a level of maturity where it can contribute very significantly to both application development productivity and end-user ease of use. We are currently in Beta test with enhancements to our System Object Model (SOM), frameworks, class libraries, and a visual builder. We will enhance our offerings in stages over the next 12-18 months with technology developed by Taligent.

We are focused on two complementary, but distinct, directions in exploiting object technology. We are expanding the object-oriented infrastructure by extending SOM to be distributed (DSOM), to be CORBA compliant, and support more languages. We're working with major players in the industry to develop an industrial-strength, full-function, interapplication communication vehicle.

At the same time, we will deliver frameworks and class libraries that provide a dramatic increase in productivity for today's applications and the tools to develop tomorrow's more sophisticated applications, such as cooperative/collaborative computing and true client/server computing.

This high-function object layer and its prerequisite infrastructure will be delivered on many, if not all, of the operating system platforms that can effectively support it. These will include, but not be limited to, OS/2 2.x, Workplace OSs, AIX, and other flavors of UNIX.

In parallel, Taligent is developing a fully object-oriented system in contrast to the layered approach just described. We in POS are developing the capability to run current and future OS/2 2.x 32-bit applications concurrently with native Taligent applications.

We're also continuing to look at ways to help you port source code to or from other platforms to reduce your overall development expense, while at the same time allowing you to optimize your applications for the unique capabilities of our products.

We're continuing to build on DOS for small systems and emerging form-factors or devices, such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). We're investing in a number of areas within Multimedia such as, compression and decompression algorithms, authoring tools, servers for time-dependent media (such as, motion video with synchronized audio), and much more. We're also investing in Pen- and Speech-Recognition technologies. We're enhancing our support for various forms of clients and native system management; and integrating them with products developed by our colleagues in LAN systems, in order to provide a complete foundation for the next generation of client/server applications.

Now, given what I've told you about our strategy, what are your key decisions? The first is how much to continue to invest in our platforms. We hope that the combination of our success with OS/2 2.x and our strategy lead you to the conclusion that continued investment is an excellent business decision. You also must decide on how quickly you want to shift your development emphasis from procedural to object. We believe that the benefits of object-oriented development will be compelling, and that we can offer you the best technology in the industry. But, we recognize that developers will adopt object technology at varying rates. So we'll continue to offer and enhance the best 32-bit APIs in the industry.

We believe that this strategy will deliver the best combination of short- and long-term value to our current and potential customers, investment partners like yourselves, and us. We hope that you agree and will continue to make the appropriate complementary investments to share in its success.

Reprint Courtesy of International Business Machines Corporation, © International Business Machines Corporation