IBM's OS/2 Warp will survive through a new focus on network computing, said executives in charge of the operating system. They outlined a roadmap for the repositioning of OS/2, a strategy devised by chief executive Lou Gerstner. This includes client and server updates in 1997 and a major upgrade early in 1998.
John Thompson, general manager of the Personal Software Products unit, said Gerstner agreed, earlier this year, to keep OS/2 alive earlier, provided it was focused on a clearer network computing model. His vice president of marketing, Donn Atkins, said there would be a "mega release" early in 1998. This will incorporate network computing features such as central security controls and improved TCP/IP and Web support.
However, individual new functions that do not affect the kernel will be made available for downloading before the new release, as they are developed. Earlier statements that OS/2 would in future be upgraded through standalone add-ons rather than changes to the kernel had aroused speculation that IBM would dump work on the kernel, but Atkins said the suspension of this work was "only temporary" and changes would be made in 1998, when there will be a completely new client kernel.
The strategy for 1997 is to make OS/2 a universal access platform to any application on the Web. It will be opened up to third party Java tools and will be offered with a far wider range of services and products from partners.
The improvement to the client kernel will be important to restoring OS/2's competitiveness. That and poor Java performance are the main doubts that hang over the system, but IBM said it is already beta testing a new Java client.
A server version of the new Java features announced earlier this month will be released in the first half of 1997.
Other add-on upgrades slated for 1997 are improvements to TCP/IP support on client and server sides, browser-based administration, a firewall and proxy server, electronic mail and newsgroups. There will also be support for network computing protocols, as laid down by Oracle and other NC specifiers, so that OS/2 can support IBM and third party NCs. Anothe rserer improvement will be support for OS/2 as a Web server.
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