Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 25th Nov 2013 17:32 UTC, submitted by toralux
OS/2 and eComStation

It was now 1984, and IBM had a different problem: DOS was pretty much still a quick and dirty hack. The only real new thing that had been added to it was directory support so that files could be organized a bit better on the IBM PC/AT’s new hard disk. And thanks to the deal that IBM signed in 1980, the cloners could get the exact same copy of DOS and run exactly the same software. IBM needed to design a brand new operating system to differentiate the company from the clones. Committees were formed and meetings were held, and the new operating system was graced with a name: OS/2.

Fantastic article at Ars Technica about the rise and demise of IBM's OS/2. OS/2 is one of those big 'what-ifs' of the technology world, along the lines of 'what if Apple had purchased Be instead of NEXT' or 'what if Nokia had opted for Android' (sorry). Our technology world could've been a lot different had OS/2 won over Windows 3.x/95.

I reviewed OS/2 as it exists today (eComStation) six years ago.

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Mr. Reimer writes of OS/2's backwards-compatibility as though it was a bad thing. In many cases it can be. The most common example cited is the Commodore 128, since developers preferred to write C=64 software that would run in C=128's compatibility mode instead of writing native C=128 apps.

At the same time, backwards-compatibility has often made the transitions to new systems easier. It was a major selling-point when I bought my PS2 and WiiU, for instance.

The difference here is that PS2 still gave developers a compelling reason to write software for the new and improved platform. (Sadly the jury's still out on whether developers will start writing good WiiU games en masse.) C=128 failed because it was actually a step backwards for the C=64 game developers; its enhancements were squarely aimed at business users, who were mostly using IBM and its clones by that point.

OS/2 didn't give developers a compelling reason to write OS/2-native apps, but they tried selling it on its strengths at running existing popular applications. Backwards-compatibility was far less a factor than IBM's incoherent business strategy in OS/2's early struggles and ultimate downfall.

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