SciTech/IBM Deal Means More OS/2 Drivers

By: Walter Metcalf
Date: 10/13/99

On October 11, SciTech Software Inc. announced "that IBM has licensed a special version of SciTech Display Doctor, which will be distributed by IBM as the primary display driver for all of IBM's OS/2 Warp based operating systems, including the Warp Client, Workspace On Demand, and Warp Server for e-business. (From IBM Licenses SciTech Software's Graphics Technology.) IBM will provide these drivers free directly to users of all OS/2 systems listed above. They will also be included in future upgrades of these products.

For several years Scitech has been working very hard producing and marketting high quality universal drivers for several operating systems. The OS/2 driver is based on IBM's Gradd driver interface that became part of Warp 4 with Fixpak 5. According to reports by users, this driver performs very well compared to drivers from other sources. IBM's licensing a special version (ie. a reduced feature/performance set) "marks the first time that any common PC operating system, either desktop or server, will include a hardware accelerated, universal display driver as part of the base operating system." (From Scitech Press Release)

While this is certainly "exciting" news for SciTech, and on the surface good news for OS/2 users as well, some have expressed concern that Scitech Software has sold out to IBM, and raised the question of whether this will mean reduced quality or quanity of drivers in the longer term. For example, on WarpX site under the headline SciTech sells out to IBM, the author muses, "I don't doubt that SciTech will benefit (moneywise and otherwise) but IBM involvement don't[sic] seem to be positive in the long run..."

To get more information with which to evaluate this statement, I contacted Tom Ryan, Director of Marketting with Scitech Software, who agreed to let his responses be posted. Here is some of our "email dialogue":

I recently read of your licensing agreement with IBM, and I imagine this must be an exciting time for you and your company!

Yes it is. :)

However, I have a concern, both as a spokesman for OS/2 and as a future customer of SciTech, and I would appreciate a frank answer.

Is there anything in the licensing agreement that restricts SciTech's future development of development of drivers or in the quality of those drivers?

Not at all. I'm not sure exactly what you are thinking, but it would not be in IBM's (or SciTech's) best interests to make such a restriction.

... I know that some companies can do some pretty powerful stuff using licensing agreements. (Maybe I've been reading too much about Microsoft lately. :) )

SciTech would never agree to such a clause, even if it cost us the business.

SciTech plans to continue to enhance and extend SciTech Display Doctor Professional for OS/2 to match the feature sets that we support on other operating systems. This deal with IBM will ensure that SciTech will be working very hard on OS/2 for a long time to come. :)

I do have a specific concern, and that may help clarify what I meant. I have a high-quality graphics card for which there is no decent OS/2 driver: the Number Nine Revolution. I exchanged emails with your sales staff a few days ago as to whether an OS/2 driver for this card (or rather the Ticket-to-Ride chipset) was in development, and they said it was. I'm not really happy with the card I'm using, so I said, in effect, "Let me know when it's done, and I'll buy it!"

From a purely selfish view, I would hate for the licensing agreement to result in the termination of that driver project. That card cost me a bundle.

The agreement with IBM will actually ensure that there will be more drivers available, of higher quality, in a shorter period of time.

You could generalize from that and say that it would be a shame if the licensing agreement had anti-competitive clauses that resulted in SciTech producing drivers for fewer chipsets, since the SciTech drivers will have more features than the IBM drivers for the same chipsets.

IBM is not really concerned with competition from SciTech at this point. :) Their main concern is supporting their OS/2 customers, and that means they want SciTech to support as many chips as possible. All the chips that are supported in IBM's version of SDD will also be supported (with additional features) in SDD Professional.

That's all very good news. Looking forward to getting my driver. Although I must say, after some of the moves IBM has made lately, support their OS/2 customers doesn't seem to be one of IBM's main concerns.

Well you can count this agreement with SciTech as one gesture that shows they do care about their OS/2 customers.

Would you mind if I posted your response on my website? OS/2 users could use some good news these days.

Be my guest...


Tom Ryan

A few points should be added in summary:

  1. The SciTech/IBM deal represents very good news for OS/2 users. Users will get the IBM version at no cost, and if that does not meet their needs, then they still have the option of buying the original SciTech Display Doctor Professional for OS/2 as an upgrade.

  2. It's best to look at this deal as an excellent, but still short-term, solution to a chronic IBM problem. IBM officials have said in the past that producing OS/2 drivers is an expensive problem. The SciTech deal will ease this for them. To go further, and suggest this deal represents a new commitment to their OS/2 customers is unwarranted, based on IBM's other recent behaviour.

  3. When asked if the deal contained restrictive licensing clauses, Tom replied that Scitech "wouldn't agree to it even if it cost them the business." It is refreshing to see that kind of integrity and commitment to OS/2 customers, especially these days.

Walter Metcalf

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