As current thinking has it, IBM Corp’s version of OS/2 for PowerPC – due this summer – will be able to run 16-bit Windows straight out of the box, thanks to an in-built iAPX-86 emulation built into the software. However existing OS/2 applications will not be able to run – they will have to be […]
As current thinking has it, IBM Corp’s version of OS/2 for PowerPC – due this summer – will be able to run 16-bit Windows straight out of the box, thanks to an in-built iAPX-86 emulation built into the software. However existing OS/2 applications will not be able to run – they will have to be recompiled. This quirk was discussed by Paul Giangarra, IBM’s chief architect of Workplace OS. It would be relatively easy, he agreed, to extend the emulation to existing OS/2 applications, but currently, this approach is being discounted as the company puts all its weight behind native applications, rather than a relatively slow emulation. It is better today to run the native applications on the native system he says. The situation has a direct parallel in Microsoft Corp’s Windows NT, where implementations on different RISC chips all run Win 16 applications under Insignia Solutions Ltd’s SoftWindows emulation, but Win32 applications need to be re-compiled. As with NT, recompilation should be pretty easy, but companies who have committed to the move are still thin on the ground. One factor that may still cause a change of tack is the company’s desire to maintain the relatively strong catalogue of shareware OS/2 utilities. Giangarra says that the importance of this software base was pointed out to him at CeBIT and he will be taking that thought back to the labs as the best reason for including iAPX-86 emulation for PowerPC OS/2. The decision leaves IBM’s Power Personal division in an interesting position. When it launches its first three machines sometime in the second half of the year the prime operating system will be the Workplace OS-hosted OS/2 that we have just been talking about. Power Personal’s key selling point, it says, will be the ‘Human-Centric’ technology that the excellent floating point performance of the PowerPC processor will be able to provide. These include things such as speech and pen input, as well as multimedia support. Unfortunately, IBM is being really rather secretive about how many of these technologies are set to be available when the machines are launched. The worst case would see the company launch very nice PowerPCs able to run Windows applications under emulation and not much else. If that is the case, as Giangarra says, native OS/2-for-PowerPC software will be key to selling the machines.