After two years of phoney war – the things were announced way back in April 1987, remember – all the signs are that the market is now going to have to take the IBM Personal System/2 and the OS/2 operating system really seriously. For after two years of waffle and hype, during which it was […]
After two years of phoney war – the things were announced way back in April 1987, remember – all the signs are that the market is now going to have to take the IBM Personal System/2 and the OS/2 operating system really seriously. For after two years of waffle and hype, during which it was able to give users very little reason apart from the assurance that it was the IBM future, to desert the AT and MS-DOS standard for PS/2, IBM finally looks to be ready to come out with all guns blazing. The phoney war and the PS/2 strategy have been decidedly costly to IBM – and to its architect, William Lowe, who lost his job and his ranking in the IBM hierachy over the decision to dump the AT bus and hand two years’ fine business over to Compaq Computer Corp and the smaller MS-DOSsers – in the process turning Compaq into financially a much more formidable competitor than it was two years ago. The fact that there is no AT bus machine using the 80386SX in the PS/2 line shows that the battle is now lost and won within the company, and if you want an old standard machine from IBM, well you have to settle for something with a Model 30 (or 25) appelation, and while a very big seller, the Model 30 is not a very highly-regarded machine. Long hot summer Spearheading the market blitz will be the new Office family of products – call it Officevision Family or SAA Office or what you will – IBM will likely call it something else again on Tuesday which will be the first true earnest that the PS/2 is the new tube for every desktop, be it stand-alone, networked to a server, or talking to a 370 or an AS/400. The first fruits of Officevision are not expected to be available before September, and many will no doubt arrive much later, so it is likely to be a long, hot summer for everyone in the personal computer market as users pause to assess just what IBM is telling them, and consider the new products, decide to let others be the first to try them out, and in the meantime grab a welcome opportunity to put all personal computer buying decisions on hold. Because make no mistake about it, if users decide to vote the IBM ticket in large numbers, there is going to be an enormous base of MS-DOS personal computers that will be obsoleted and need wholesale replacement. Office will be accompanied by a new 1.2 release of OS/2 Extended Edition, which will include enhancements to Presentation Manager, SNA LU 6.2 communications, and and memory management, and may well feature a move forward in the database area, because the database within OS/2 Extended will clearly be an important part of the Officevision whole. Loose agglomeration It also appears that Office is a rather loose agglomeration of products and concepts, and will effectively be an enhanced operating environment for the PS/2 rather than a tightly-knit collection of applications – in other words, not another Profs or DisOSS, but a new way of doing a whole string of things on the PS/2. The key benefit of the Metaphor user interface from Metaphor Computer Systems is expected to be not an alternative to Presentation Manager as some had assumed, but a set of facilities under Presentation Manager that will automatically generate SQL code from routines created on the screen using icons and other graphical methods – everyone can become a programmer without even realising that that is what he or she is doing. And, as was revealed yesterday (CI No 1,174), the importance of Easel from Interactive Images Inc is in its ability to create a Systems Application Architecture front-end for existing host applications designed to talk to an old style 3270 screen. Also noteworthy is that the launch is expected to see the first clutch of Systems Applications Architecture-compliant – or Common User Access compliant – applications that are designed specifically for the PS/2 rather than primarily for the mainframe with a PS/2 as terminal. (And isn’t there going to be a market out there for more-or-less dumb SAA terminals that cost $1,000 or less, perhaps with bits of OS/2 embedded? – IBM would likely want users to think not, but
the market is likely to see an opportunity). Among companies expected to join IBM in the announcement with their own product contributions – all conforming to the Common User Access definition of Systems Application Architecture, but mostly aimed at the mainframe – are McCormack & Dodge and American Management Systems with financial applications; Information Builders Inc, its Focus language; American Software Inc, inventory control and accounting packages; Computer Associates with accounting and data centre management programs; Arthur Andersen with computer-aided software engineering tools; Comshare, decision support software; Integral Systems and Tesseract, personnel and payroll programs; Management Science America, accounting and manufacturing; SAS Institute, statistics and data analysis programs; Policy Management Systems, insurance; and Sterling Software, configuration and storage management utilities. Memory will shock A crucial negative in all this is going to be the amount of memory required to run much of the new software at the desktop: where Apple Computer Inc is talking of a minimum main memory of 2Mb on all its machines to run the forthcoming Release 7 of the Macintosh System Software – and that the baby Macs will run the thing, only very fully populated PS/2s are going to be able to run the new IBM offerings – clearly an 80386-based machine will be the minimum, and where at present users need 3Mb to 4Mb to run OS/2 with some of the frills, the amount of memory required for Extended 1.2 and the new IBM offerings will shock some people according to one observer who has seen the new stuff. Another downside is that by tying OS/2 so closely with Systems Application Architecture, IBM is firmly declaring it an IBM standard where demand from users is increasingly for open industry standards. Apple does not seem to have too much to worry about, but it begins to look as if the manufacturing adherents to MS-DOS and the AT or EISA bus are quickly going to have to embrace Unix with MS-DOS running as a task to come up with a comprehensive – and much cheaper alternative to what IBM is about to offer.