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IBM OS/2, eComStation & ArcaOS

Why OS/2? | ArcaOS | eComStation | OS/2 Section Contents

OS/2 logo © IBM.

About OS/2

OS/2 was an operating system developed initially by IBM and Microsoft. Later, Microsoft abandoned OS/2 to invest fully in the development of Windows.

Once seen as the PC operating system that would eventually replace DOS, OS/2 was co-developed by IBM and Microsoft Corp. in the 1980s. But Microsoft eventually cast its lot behind Windows, and IBM never became as successful selling OS/2 to corporations, or the consumer version, Warp, to consumers.

Initially, OS/2 was a command-line operating system which gained very little consumer attention although it was had great success in commercial applications including the software running ATMs (it was years before Windows was stable enough to do so).

OS/2 Warp

With the release of OS/2 Warp 3 and Warp 4, many consumers found a way to a more modern graphical interface than Windows 3.1 but which also had the ability to run Windows 3.x software, thereby allowing them to move existing applications across to OS/2.

Extremely Stable

OS/2 Warp was extremely stable and drew a significant following. It included an office suite, Internet software and more. Additional software was developed by a number of companies, including Stardock and Lotus, that provided for eye candy, productive software and utilities. OS/2 Warp natively incorporated Java and was capable of running OpenOffice long before Windows was able to do so.

More Efficient Hardware Use

I dual-booted OS/2 Warp 3 with Windows 95 when it became available. I later upgraded to Warp 4. The OS/2 system was much more stable than Windows 95 and capable of running multiple processes on the same computer hardware.

Why OS/2?

In 2003 Isaac Leung asked, If I were starting all over again today, would I still choose OS/2?

This is a good question, particularly if you assume, like many, that OS/2 is dead.

Unlike Windows at the time, OS/2 was extremely stable and significant numbers continued to use it in situations where reliability was more important than eye candy or massive software catalogues.

Unusual Reliability

While not pretty, OS/2 could be counted on to just work. It served as the operating system running cash machines and other critical systems.

I received a call for help from a manufacturing company when they discovered that a OS/2-based communications computer failed after running for over 10 years without needing servicing (or even being noticed).

I couldn't imagine contemporary Windows versions running for 10 months without problems for the IT staff, never mind 10 years! Certainly not Windows 95 — the Windows version that launched nearly 12 months after IBM's OS/2 Warp 3.

OS/2 Ahead of Its Time

OS/2 turned 25 in 2012.

It had failed to gain dominance, not because it was inferior, but because it was ahead of its time.

OS/2 contained features that were years ahead of software pending at the time. When OS/2 Warp 3 launched, most users were still using DOS as their primary operating system with Windows 3.1 running on top.

OS/2's fourth release was widely regarded as technically superior to Windows 95 and Windows NT but didn't catch on because of a clunkier GUI and Microsoft's hardball licensing tactics that made it commercially suicidal for PC-makers to offer the OS.
The Register

The fee Microsoft charged IBM for the inclusion of Windows 3.x capability in OS/2 was several times higher than what Microsoft had charged computer vendors to pre-install it on their computers.

Once Windows 95 launched, Windows software changed and the catalogue of contemporary Windows 3.x software diminished.

OS/2 continues to be used in places you'd never suspect.

OS/2 Discontinued by IBM

Effectively IBM had stopped selling and supporting OS/2. End of Standard Support for OS/2 Warp was December 31, 2006.

The combination of a sophisticated operating system and its technically-literate users created unheard-of loyalty to a product that was no longer in production.

The Open Source Petition Letter to IBM

OS/2 users twice petitioned IBM to release OS/2 into Open Source. They hoped to renew OS/2 in same way that Netscape's Mozilla paved the way for Firefox and Google Chrome to gain such wide acceptance. It was not to be.

Probably the biggest hurdle was the licensing for the Windows 3.x components. Microsoft was not interested in supporting a competitor to Widows 95.

Once Windows 95 launched, Windows software changed and the catalogue of contemporary Windows 3.x software diminished.

ArcaOS — Arca Noae's New OS/2-based OS

ArcaOS provides modern and continuing support for those wishing to run OS/2 programs. It is a viable upgrade path for those currently running OS/2 or eCS.

Let Arca Noae show you what OS/2 looks like in the 21st Century. Stable. Secure. Lean. Hardware-Compatible.

ArcaOS is a recommended update to both eComStation and OS/2 Warp.


eComStation emerged out of the demand for continued support for OS/2 software, especially in Europe.

eComStation is a reliable and secure operating system originally based on IBM OS/2 Warp, which delivers a proven virus free, no-downtime operating environment both for personal desktop use and industry needs where reliability is paramount.

Running OS/2 Warp 3 or 4?

If you continue to run OS/2 Warp 3 or 4 (or earlier), you may find the Archived Resources on this site useful.

You may also wish to check out Arca Noae's OS/2 & eCS drivers & software subscriptions, available in personal or commercial editions.


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Updated: June 2, 2023