It began life as the next-generation operating system that would succeed MS-DOS and become the new standard, but IBM's technically excellent OS/2 experienced little success and then disappeared with a whimper, yet another victim to the Windows juggernaught. Last week, finally, IBM made the first public steps toward acknowledging what OS watchers have known for some time, and the company is now, officially, putting OS/2 out to pasture.
In a typically staid posting to its Web site, IBM announced what it calls a "change in support for OS/2 Warp 4 and OS/2 Warp Server for e-Business," the final client and server versions of OS/2, respectively. "Effective December 31, 2006, IBM will withdraw standard support for OS/2 Warp(R) 4 \[and\] OS/2 Warp Server for e-business Version 1 licensed under the IBM International Program License Agreement," the posting reads. "Fee-based service offerings ... will provide support beyond December 31, 2006, via a services contract."
In related documentation IBM also admits that it will not create any new versions of OS/2, or fix packs (service packs in Microsoft parlance) or component refreshes for existing versions. Likewise, the company will offer only "very limited" support for new IBM hardware drivers for OS/2 through the end of 2005 and then will cease creating OS/2 compatible hardware drivers.
For me, OS/2 is a sad story that should have ended differently. When I was forced to move to the Windows platform in 1993 (from the Amiga), I found Windows 3.1 to be completely unacceptable and started seeking out alternatives. That year, IBM shipped OS/2 2.11, what I consider to be the first truly excellent client version of OS/2. I used that operating system and its successor, OS/2 Warp 3, for the next year or so until the Windows 95 beta kicked in. Then, of course, the world changed. With the release of Windows 95, OS/2 didn't have a chance.