IBM finally puts OS/2 to sleep

After many years of OS/2 quietly bumping along in the background unnoticed by the majority of the IT industry (“you mean IBM still sell OS/2?”), IBM have finally withdrawn OS/2 from the market although support will continue until the end of 2006.

OS/2 in the early 90s was a major competitor to Windows 3.1, and at that time was techologically far more advanced than Windows 3.1. Even with the release of Windows 95, OS/2 was still a far superior operating system and was incredibly stable. Unfortunately OS/2 ended up as the Betamax compared to Micrsoft’s VHS that is Windows, and possibly due to lack of successful marketing and promotion from IBM, never made the market penetration that was acheived by Windows (and of course lost out from Microsoft’s bundling deals with WIndows on new PCs).

OS/2 was widely used by banks and and insurance companies in Europe, and was even used (I believe) to power ATM machines in the US in the early 90s. My first job out of college was working in OS/2 software support with IBM, so I have fond memories working with this operating system and it’s sad to see it go. The last time I saw OS/2 running anywhere was around 1999 when I saw it being used in an office to run the voicemail system for an office of about 300 people (it was on a PC sitting in the corner of a unused room). It will be interesting to see how long it continues to live on in the community, especially as devoted users are lobbying IBM to open source the code so that it can continue to be supported in the community.

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