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Copyright 1998-2024, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group

SCOUG OS/2 For You - June 1995

The President's Message

Where Are the Killer Apps?

by Rollin White

This question was asked of me at a recent SCOUG event. And of course there was the perpetual follow-on question, "When is <big company X> going to write their software for OS/2?" While I was happy to answer the questions, they are, in my book, really the wrong questions to be asking.

Bear in mind that I may very likely have a biased opinion. I do, after all, work for a small independent OS/2 vendor; I have friends who develop OS/2 applications; I run CES BBS - and BBSs are one of the main distribution channels for OS/2 shareware. So, my perspective is perhaps not that of the "average" OS/2 user.

While big companies such as WordPerfect/Novell, Lotus, and Borland may play an important part in boosting the success of OS/2, these companies rarely deliver truly killer applications. Instead, and as Economics 101 tells us, it is the smaller software companies that have more incentive to be innovative with their products.

If we take a moment to examine OS/2's history, we will indeed see that it is the small companies that not only innovate, but are the ones that actually prove IBM's technology. In the beginning there was OS/2 character mode, without the graphical interface. It was DeScribe, a new company at the time, that developed the first Presentation Manager - and thus graphical - application for OS/2. Five years later, Wordperfect was only able to create a halfhearted Mirrors port.

The next significant development in the history of OS/2 was the Workplace Shell (WPS) in OS/2 version 2.0. The OS/2 Presentation Manager was (and is) still there, but with the Workplace Shell adding another layer with a much more object-based focus. At this point, companies such as Sundial Systems started to make extensive use of the WPS features such as drag-and-drop. It was not until later, around version 2.1, that other OS/2 vendors began to integrate drag-and-drop into their applications.

The WPS has a lot more power in it than most initially realized - specifically, the ability to create WPS SOM objects. Products previously mentioned such as Relish by Sundial Systems, as well as others like DeskMan/2 by DevTech, Wireless Communicator by ChipChat-Cawthon Software and XFolder by the Desktop Company, have emerged as some of the most powerful applications to date. Not because they have 10,000,000 lines of code and 30 man years of development. Instead, they were developed by only a few innovative programmers, utilizing some of OS/2's most powerful features. These products break the traditional model of an application; they are powerful because they work with your desktop and enhance your work environment.

Other small vendors have proven other technologies along the way. Proportional Software exploits some of the hidden features of the high performance file system (HPFS) with their DCF/2 product. Meanwhile, Stacker finally puts a GUI on their OS/2 product. Athena Design (with the Mesa/2 spreadsheet) and Clearlook (their word processor is reviewed elsewhere in this issue) have proven that object oriented software can result in quick, robust, feature rich "mainstream" applications.

This is not to say that you should avoid big name applications. Instead, you should not hold your breath for them. If there is an alternative, give it a careful examination. Most companies will send you a demo or literature, at the very least, if you request it.

Just for the record, there are a few bigger companies that have created notable products. Watcom's VX-REXX has been impressive since version 1.0. (To give them a run for their money, however, VisPro-REXX and VisPro-C from Hockware have matched them feature for feature.) And, Lotus's cc:Mail! is implemented as WPS objects.

The moral of the story is to give careful thought when evaluating OS/2 products. Sure, the small company's word processor may not allow you to edit equations that intermix Roman, Greek, and Kanji symbols all at the same time - but is that really critical to you? We typically use 10-30% of the features of a given program, so if one application does that 30% in a new and improved way, why not use it?

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1995 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG is a trademark of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.