In its boldest bid yet to inject life into OS/2, IBM has announced a version of the struggling operating system for network computing devices and a machine to run it on.
The operating system, NCOS, will be available by June. It has been designed specifically to run on a future network computer from IBM and must requires OS/2 Warp Server as a host.
IBM confirmed the new hardware will not conform to the NetPC specification but was unable to say whether it would be an NC-compatible device.
IBM employees were shown the machine running OS/2 two weeks ago in the US.
According to Nick Davis, OS/2 product marketing manager at IBM, the machine looks similar to the current NC-based Network Station, but is designed around an Intel architecture, rather than the PowerPC.
Explaining why IBM chose to port OS/2 to the network computer platform, Davis said: "Everyone knows OS/2 is a technically superior operating system, so why not use this reliable, robust multitasking operating system in these devices?"
Although Davis was unaware of the exact specifications, he believes the operating system will require between 1.5Mb and 2Mb of memory. Davis pointed out that IBM has already proved it can shrink the operating system down to this level. "When we had OS/2 1.3, it used 2Mb of RAM, and that included the Presentation Manager GUI."
Like OS/2 today, NCOS will support Java, Win16 and Win32 applications, as well as DOS. IBM is not integrating the operating system on the network computer ROM so that it boots up automatically when the machine is powered-on. Instead, users will download it over the network onto their machine when it is switched on.
"This is why we have had to develop a small operating system," explained Davis. "The size of the operating system is a real problem for network computers because they cannot ripple down over a network."
IBM denied the new OS/2 will compete against Microsoft's Windows CE operating system for palmtop computers.
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