Why a New OS/2 Warp Client?

By: Walter Metcalf
Date: 02/23/00

An article entitled "IBM to Update OS/2 Client", by Esther Schindler appeared on Feb. 7, 2000 in Sm@rt Reseller Online. The article has sent ripples of excitement throughout the OS/2 community, and may ultimately have more impact than IBM's decision last year on "Black Friday" to turn down Stardock's proposal to update the OS/2 Warp client.

However, OS/2 users have been burned so many times by IBM that they are being very cautious. The words, "I'll believe it when I see it" can be heard from OS/2 loyalists all over the Internet. Another reason for caution is that Schindler gives no clue as to the source of the information in her story. It would help a little if she quoted IBM, or an IBM official, but the vague "has learned" provides little reasurance. Nevertheless, Schindler has a solid reputation for publishing factual articles, and this provides a measure of credibility in itself.

Why Now?

If IBM does in fact release a new client, we have to ask, "Why now?" after two years of doing their best to bury OS/2 and trying to persuade even their large customers to switch to Windows? It's possible the answer lies in the appointment of John Soyring, a long-time OS/2 advocate, to head of the division responsible for OS/2. In other words it may be partly the result of Soyring's new influence. This is the opinion of Mark Dodel in his article, "Is that a light at the end of the tunnel?" in the February, 2000 issue of the VOICE newsletter. However, in my view, Schindler's sources are more likely to be correct in suggesting the decision is the result of OS/2 Warp client's profitability. (See "Shhh! IBM's Still Selling OS/2" also by Esther Schindler.) Perhaps Soyring was appointed to his new position to carry out a policy IBM was already considering. As with most things IBM, we'll probably never know. Sigh.

According to Schindler's article, the new client is to be considered a "refresh" and will be called a "convenience pak." Apparently IBM has two main purposes in releasing the refresh.

Code Base

First, the new release would put OS/2 Warp Client and Warp Server for e-Business on the same code-base. This would make it much easier for IBM to roll out fixes and changes to both systems, and presumably easier for customers with both systems to implement them.

As a side note, a number of items have appeared recently within the OS/2 community describing a major Fixpak, sometimes identified as Fixpak 13a, that was originally to have been released by the end of January. According to these articles its main contributions to the OS/2 Warp client were to bring the Warp client's kernel to the same level as WSeb, and to remove the 512MB restriction on the size of an application. Since this Fixpak has not been released and a new client refresh has been announced, albeit unofficially, one is left wondering how much of the material written about "Fixpak 13a" was simply rumour. (For more on this mysterious fixpak, see the OS2.org news article.

Feature Roll-Up

Second, there have been a host of updates and fixpaks, released since OS/2 Warp 4 was first released in September 1996. The current application and hardware environment has made most of these fixpaks and updates mandatory. The result is although a person may be able to install OS/2 on a workstation in a few minutes, it can easily take him or her half a day or more to install all the updates and fixpaks! The situation continues to get worse as each fixpak or new feature set is added to OS/2 Warp 4. Here is a partial list of some of the updates that are required on virtually all OS/2 Warp systems:

  1. Special Drivers to update Installation diskettes for large hard drive
  2. Current Fixpak (at the time of writing, 12)
  3. Device Driver Fixpak
  4. Netscape Communicator
  5. Feature Installer
  6. Java 1.1.8
  7. Java 1.1.8 Runtime updates
  8. TCP/IP Fixpak
  9. MPTS Fixpak
  10. OS/2 Peer Fixpak
  11. Printer (Omni) driver updates

    Note: This list is limited to fixes and updates from IBM only.

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Walter Metcalf

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