IBM OS/2, eComStation & ArcaOS
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 DOS-like command-line operating system which gained very little consumer attention although it was had great success in commercial applications including the software running ATMs years before Windows was stable enough to do so.
By retaining the ability to run Windows 3.x software, it provided the ability to run existing Windows applications under OS/2 while opening the potential for a modern operating system.
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.
More Efficient Hardware Use
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.
OS/2 Warp 4 included speech recognition software and natively incorporated Java and was capable of running OpenOffice long before Windows was able to do so.
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.
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.
A number of years ago I received a call for help from a manufacturing company when they discovered that their OS/2-based communications computer failed. This was after continuously running for over 10 years without needing servicing (the current IT department weren't even aware of it).
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 was 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 vastly 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.
- 25 Years of IBM's OS/2: The strange days and surprising afterlife of a legendary operating system.
- OS/2 a quarter century on: Why IBM lost out and how Microsoft won.
- IBM's failed operating system OS/2 is 25 years old — but it still powers ATMs and checkouts.
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.
People were more interested in running the more polished (although less stable) Windows 95. Programs designed for Windows 95 would not run under OS/2 Warp.
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, primarily 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.