An Interview with IBM about OS/2

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Written by Marco J. Shmerykowsky

The following interview was conducted with Stephanie Rasmussen and John Albee. Ms. Rasmussen is a spokesperson for IBM Software. John Albee is the Program Manager for IBM's Personal Software Products division, located in Austin, Texas. Albee is responsible for the execution of the strategy for the division which develops the OS/2 Warp family of products. Most recently, he held the title of World Wide Marketing Brand Manager for LAN Systems Networking. In this position, Albee was responsible for the announcement and delivery of IBM's OS/2 LAN Server Ultimedia, OS/2 LAN Server 4.0 and OS/2 Warp Server 4.0.

EDM/2: What is IBM's target market for OS/2? Please define what IBM means by "enterprise", "medium enterprise" and "large enterprise".

IBM: We are targeting medium to large enterprises with OS/2. We classify a medium-sized enterprise as a company with 200 - 2,000 employees and a large enterprise as a company with over 2,000 employees. Our traditional strength lies with both the banking and insurance industries. We will continue to target those key industries, while also working to expand our market share in other vertical industries.

EDM/2: With regard to target market, where does soho fit in? Where will smallcompanies (10-20 people) fall in the future?

IBM: IBM will continue to make updates to OS/2 that benefit our target customers - medium to large enterprise users. While we welcome any smaller users who wish to purchase our products, they should know that our priorities for upgrades and enhancements will be the areas that help enterprise customers take advantage of network computing. One example of this is WorkSpace On-Demand. It allows customers using OS/2 Warp Server to manage desktop clients running Java, OS/2, DOS, Win 3.x, 3270/5250 and 32-bit Windows (through Citrix) applications. This allows companies to realize tremendous savings in total cost of ownership (TCO). One early tester was able to reduce the number of network administrators assigned to managing desktops from a 1:40 ratio to 1:250 - a 650% improvement.

EDM/2: IBM has talked frequently about putting Java center stage and about OS/2 being a network computing os. What hardware and vendor support for multi-media (streaming video and audio) will there be?

IBM: As you know, OS/2 is targeted at business customers. While there is a need for rich content, business is primarily interested in minimal use of multimedia. We do support numerous sound cards and video codecs, but our efforts going forward will focus more on enhancements related to Java and network computing.

EDM/2: In the future, how will hardware support be implemented? What if Intel (or another vendor) develops a new product that improves productivity, how will it be integrated into OS/2?

IBM: We will evaluate future hardware improvements to determine if incorporating them with OS/2 will be a benefit to our target customers. If there is a compelling reason to integrate the hardware into OS/2, we will do it.

EDM/2: Will there be an easier/more efficient way for people to report bugs? Right now users have to have big contracts with IBM?

IBM: Support is available for end-users and enterprises. Presently the plan is to continue the services for OS/2 as they are now.

EDM/2: Could you briefly review the currently available support options? Also, does this support include a mechanism for the submission of problem reports? (These "reports" should serve as notifications of possible problems and not a trouble shooting sessions with technicians)

IBM: Users without support contracts from IBM can report possible bugs via the Internet, fax or mail free of charge. If a user chooses to call the problem in, they will either need a support contract or will be required to pay $190 per incident. If the problem turns out to be a defect, then the $190 will be refunded.

The instructions for submitting a defect are available by calling the Personal Software Solution Services Voice Response Unit by dialing 1-800-992-4777 - select option 3 (Answers to frequently asked technical questions, order corrective service diskettes, etc.) - select option 3 (Information on reporting a defect) - select option 1 (Receive a FAXed copy of the defect submission form and instructions on how to submit)

The Fax contains the defect submission form along with the following ways to submit the form:

FAX: 1-800-426-8602

Solutions Management Center
IBM Corp., Zip 30-01-0A
13800 Diplomat Road
Dallas, TX 75234

E-mail to
CompuServ: CISMAIL to 76711,611

EDM/2: In my EDM/2 article "OS/2 Observations, Rumors, & Tips from PC Expo", I referred to the effort necessary to port development tools to OS/2. For example, if an enterprise customer wants to deploy WorkSpace On-Demand, the person working on the network will have a full-blown client and will want development tools. Will we see Fusion for OS/2? What about the Lotus BeanMachine?

IBM: OS/2 has a number of development / content creation tools available today. There is no plan to port Fusion to OS/2. Lotus' BeanMachine will be available for OS/2.

EDM/2: Some people are puzzled about what's happening with the Communicator/browser component with OS/2. It seems to have slipped behind other Communicator products. Is it a Netscape or an IBM product? If Netscape, does it follow their general policy that if you are a student you can get a free copy (browser) with no eval period? Now users must get new components from Software Choice. Do end users have to pay $250 just to get a browser?

IBM: We are working with Netscape to evaluate the next browser update for OS/2. That will be available sometime in 1998. We have not announced pricing or distribution plans, such as Software Choice, for the updated browser. Communicator is a Netscape product.

EDM/2: On January 22, 1998 Netscape announced that it will begin giving away its browser for free. It also announced that developers would be able to license the source code for the next version of Communicator for free. How does this impact Netscape for OS/2? Will the OS/2 source code for Communicator become available for OS/2 developers such as EDM/2's readers?

IBM: At this point we don't know the answer to that question. We are working with Netscape to determine how their announcement will affect OS/2.

EDM/2: Are there any plans to further componentize Software Choice? What if someone sees just one component, such as the Netscape browser, that they want to purchase? Can they get just one piece, or do users have to purchase a full-blown subscription?

IBM: Software Choice will not be componentized. It is an upgrade protection option.

EDM/2: What's happening with the client and server future versions? Mike Lawrie said IBM would have an OS/2 Warp 5 release about a year ago. Still true? What about people using it stand-alone?

IBM: Software Choice is the current method for getting new functionality for the client and server. IBM will release a new version of OS/2 Warp Server. Client enhancements that have been made this year include the recent support for Java 1.1.4. We will also continue to enhance the OS/2 client to help customers move to network computing and the WorkSpace On-Demand solution. The client updates will be available via Software Choice.

EDM/2: Just to clarify, IBM will not sell a "Warp 5 client" as a seperate product. Rather, the current version will be "enhanced" through releases of Fixpacks and component upgrades such as updating the TCP/IP stack or the JAVA environment.

IBM: At this point we are distributing updates to the OS/2 client via Software Choice. This is a convenient way for our customers to receive the latest updates to OS/2 without having to wait a year or more to get them in a new release. In addition, it allows customers to choose which updates they wish to download.

EDM/2: IBM now pushes overall solutions - not single products. Why would someone buy NT middleware from IBM when they can buy the same type of software from Microsoft?

IBM: Customers choose IBM middleware to run with NT because of the quality and reliability of our software. IBM is the only company that can offer a complete solution, from the hardware to software to services. This is a very important differentiation for our customers.

EDM/2: Why doesn't IBM urge customers to buy complete IBM solutions - OS/2 on the desktops and middle-tier servers, IBM middleware and mainframe software and IBM hardware?

IBM: IBM serves a broad range of customers with many different needs and operating system platforms. Very few enterprises run only one server or desktop os. That's why IBM currently ports all middleware to the 6 leading platforms - OS/2, [and AIX? Ed.] NT, HP-UX, Novell Netware and Sun Solaris. Our goal is to produce total network computing solutions from the desktop to the largest servers.

EDM/2: Will VoiceType and the Voice Command features be retained in the Warp 5 client? Also, are there plans to keep the OS/2 version of VoiceType on par with the Windows version. Will there be or is there currently a continuous-speech product available for OS/2?

IBM: Voice recognition is not a requirement for our target customer set - enterprise customers. We will be focusing our attention on making upgrades such as Java and browser enhancements, which benefit that set of users.

EDM/2: Although I believe that IBM has already addressed this, certain users would like to know if full Win32 support will be added to OS/2. Win32 support is an issue for applications which will not be ported and do not have acceptable substitutes. In the engineering industry, for example, AutoCAD *must* be used. This app, however, is only available for Windows.

IBM: Our plan is to continue offering Win32 support through the Citrix WinFrame Server.

EDM/2: A reader presented the following "real life" scenario: "We are a group of consultants designing and setting up a small (say 8-20) network solutions. We are looking at bigger things, too, now. We have always pushed OS/2 as the way to go, and have it installed in a majority of our locations. With very happy clients. Lately, with all the smoke and fog over the OS/2 issue, we have begun to feel a little dishonest and slightly guilty inside about continuing to push OS/2. Especially when the client accepts. I am not sure, that in the face of such feelings and lack of information, we should continue to do this. It is a tough decision and we have decided to go slow with new projects, for some time. I would like some clear information that would help us decide between - Yes, go ahead and continue, OR, No, switch to something else immediately."

IBM: If the consultant's customers are enterprise customers or customers looking for a network computing solution, then OS/2 is the way to go. If, however, they are looking for a more consumer-oriented os, then OS/2 would not be the correct solution.

If the consultants are concerned that OS/2 is "dying", the answer is that OS/2 will be around as long as our enterprise customers say it needs to be around. To put the situation into perspective, the top 2,000 OS/2 customers in the world spend billions of dollars with IBM annually in a variety of areas including hardware, additional software and services. Many of these customers are utilizing OS/2 in mission-critical areas within their organizations. We are not going to abandon these customers.

EDM/2: Will Lotus continue to develop native OS/2 applications beyond SmartSuite, so we will have a choice?"

IBM: The next version of SmartSuite for OS/2 is currently in beta testing. Users can go to the Lotus web site and download a copy. As we've outlined before, Java is the model that we are emphasizing for the future. Leading-edge apps. such as Lotus' eSuite WorkPlace will become more and more important to the OS/2 community going forward.

EDM/2: This answer seems to imply that there will not be another native OS/2 version of Smarsuite after the version currently in beta is released. Is this correct?

IBM: That's really a question for Lotus to answer. But as we've been saying for some time now, IBM is encouraging developers to write their applications in Java. We believe that is where the future of client applications lies.

EDM/2: Many computer users have asked the following question when asked about OS/2: "What is the incentive for people to upgrade to OS/2 when it has fewer applications that can run under it, less hardware support, and the applications that do exist cost more?" What is IBM's response to this?

IBM: Anyone interested in moving to OS/2 on the desktop should be a customer looking to implement network computing in a managed PC environment through WorkSpace On-Demand. Currently WorkSpace On-Demand is the only solution of this type on the market.

EDM/2: Many current OS/2 users have been struggling with the following question: "What assurances can I have, as a long time OS/2 user, that OS/2 will continue as an operating system (even if IBM changes the name)? Furthermore, what is being done to provide applications for OS/2?" What is IBM's response?

IBM: OS/2 will continue to exist as an operating system in one form or another as long as IBM's top customers need it to run their enterprises. As I stated above, our top 2,000 OS/2 customers spend billions of dollars with IBM annually. How OS/2 looks in the future will be determined by the needs to those customers. They have indicated to us that the best way to serve them is by providing a solution with a powerful server and a managed client. We've done that with WorkSpace On-Demand. The applications that customers will most likely use in this new network computing environment will be Java or existing OS/2, DOS, Win 3.x, 3270, 5250 and 32-bit Win 95/NT applications (via third-party solutions).

EDM/2: How will the issue of multiprocessor support be addressed? Will OS/2, like NT, have both a multiprocessor capable client and server?

IBM: There are currently no plans for multi-processor support for the client, because most business users do not need this type of hardware at the client. We will continue to provide multi-processor support for the server.

EDM/2: My "OS/2 Rumors..." article mentioned how I had heard people say that "Many companies that abandoned OS/2 to switch to Windows NT are coming back". If this is indeed true, then would it be possible for IBM to provide, as examples, the names of some of the companies that returned to OS/2 use?

IBM: Unfortunately, most of our customers request that we do not give out their names. In situations like this, the customer has made a bad decision by moving to NT. You can understand why they would not want to make this information public.

One large customer that recently made the decision to not purchase NT is Banco do Brasil. Banco do Brasil is the largest retail bank in Latin America. They chose IBM over Microsoft, because IBM was the only company that could provide them with an end-to-end solution. Their roll-out will include approximately 50,000 OS/2 Warp licenses (44, 000 OS/2 Warp 4 clients and 10,000 OS/2 Warp Servers). This makes them one of the largest OS/2 customers in the world. In addition to purchasing OS/2 Warp, they are deploying IBM's SET technology for secure Internet transactions, making IBM the first vendor to have SET technology on all five continents.

Banco do Brasil is also making a commitment to Java, by both moving their home Internet banking applications to Java and training half their IT staff, 900 professionals, in Java -- one of the world's largest Java training initiatives by a single company.

EDM/2: Recent articles in the computer trade press seem to indicate that OS/2 will play a large part in the computer network which IBM is deploying for the 1998 Winter Olympics. Could you perhaps elaborate on OS/2's role?

IBM: The IBM OS/2 Warp family of products will make it possible for computers, timing devices and other hardware from a variety of global companies to work together. The OS/2 Warp family will facilitate accurate scoring, tabulation and reporting results of the Games and share and distribute information across the athletic venues, the Olympic Village, mobile TV production studios, press centers and broadcast centers.

As the operating system supporting 4,000 desktop and notebook personal computers at the Games, OS/2 Warp will enable the use of multi-platform software products such as the DB2 Universal Database product family, the Customer Information Control System (CICS), the MQSeries messaging middleware, and the Tivoli TME 10 system management product family for automation of system and network operations.