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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RE: Comment by Fergy
by bassbeast on Mon 25th Nov 2013 23:58 UTC in reply to "Comment by Fergy"
Member since:

Exactly as there is a REASON why OS/2 lost out that everybody seems to forget. Pull up a seat kiddies and let this old codger fill y'all in on some history.

You see kids IBM was PISSED, we are talking finger biting mad that their deal with MSFT, followed by losing the BIOS court case (for those that don't remember the court ruled that reverse engineering was legal as long as they weren't copying code and were using COTS parts) meant that anybody and their dog could make a PC. You see kids IBM had gotten used to fat rat profits because "nobody got fired for buying IBM" and suddenly all these upstarts were undercutting them left and right and we are talking hundreds of dollars difference folks.

So first they tried to "wrest control" AKA get back their monopoly status by coming up with a new bus that they would charge like crazy for to any of the OEMs while they of course could use it free, it was called th MCA bus if you want to look it up. The later named "gang of nine" which was the biggest non-IBM OEMs at the time got together instead and came up with their OWN standard which they called EISA and just to rub salt and save money IIRC they used the MCA connectors, simply wired backwards so that IBM couldn't sue and the hardware manufacturers wouldn't have to make a new socket to support it.

It was in THIS climate that IBM came out with OS/2 and at a time when the OEMs were paying as little as $15 a pop for Windows/DOS IBM wanted....$200. Remember that with inflation that was probably closer to $600 in USD today and again IBM of course wouldn't have that boat anchor tied to THEIR PCs. Needless to say it was viewed like plague blankets to the OEMs. Towards the end of the run IBM heavily discounted the price but after trying to backstab the OEMs with the MCA bus frankly there was ZERO love for IBM at that point and besides, why would you want OS/2 when all the software by that point was written for Win9X?

So there ya have it kids,the REAL reason why OS/2 never went anywhere. Back in the day (mid 90s to be exact) I ran OS/2 and it was really nice...until I had to boot into Windows because the software I needed didn't have an OS/2 version, the same was true of BeOS which I also ran. I said then and I'll say now if OS/2 had been owned from the start by anybody OTHER than IBM? It would be what Windows is now as it was incredibly stable and fast, but with IBM at the helm it was doomed from the start.

Reply Parent Score: 10

RE[2]: Comment by Fergy
by Langalf on Tue 26th Nov 2013 01:40 in reply to "RE: Comment by Fergy"
Langalf Member since:

Actually, EISA was a little more than just "MCA wired backwards". It was a compatible upgrade to the ISA bus, which was the standard before MCA came along.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by Fergy
by tylerdurden on Tue 26th Nov 2013 07:52 in reply to "RE: Comment by Fergy"
tylerdurden Member since:

Do you have any actual source for the claim that Microsoft was pushing windows for $15 a pop?

In any case, the main problem of OS/2 wasn't cost. That OS was DOA because it never had any defined value proposition against the systems it was supposed to supersede or compete against. Not only that, but OS/2 initially was not a good design or product really.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by Fergy
by bassbeast on Wed 27th Nov 2013 23:30 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Fergy"
bassbeast Member since:

Yes I do Tyler, its the MSFT DOJ court case. Feel free to look it up but one of the charges they were convicted of is tying their discount prices to whether or not you sold any other OSes on your systems, as well as tying license costs to how many units you sold NOT how many units sold with Windows. These two factors made it virtually impossible to sell a PC with anything else without taking a hell of a hit to the bottom line.

And I'm sorry but you are wrong, I was in PC sales even back then and there was a LOT of value in OS/2 as frankly before Win98SE Windows was buggy as hell. Even Gates himself was famously bitten by the BSOD during a presentation when he plugged in a USB printer only to have the system crash in front of everyone. OS/2 was insanely stable compared to Windows pre XP, folks take a stable running Windows for granted now but back then? Daily BSODs were the norm.

Reply Parent Score: 2