OS/2 Warp

The Golden Years—the most successful version of OS/2

In October 1994 IBM released OS/2 Warp, the most popular version of OS/2 and arguably one of the coolest operating systems ever (Warp Connect even said so on the box—“The totally cool way to run and network your computer”—so it must be true). It was so good that some people used it for many years after the release. Its underpinnings weren’t all that different from OS/2 version 2.11 but it was a great leap forward in terms of usability.

OS/2 Warp was also IBM’s most serious and best attempt at gaining dominance on the PC desktop, or at least winning a significant market share. At one point and in some countries, OS/2 Warp may have accounted for 5% of the desktop market or more, but it is extremely difficult if not impossible to get reliable figures. OS/2 certainly had a significant foothold in the banking and insurance industries, both traditional IBM customers.

Similarly to OS/2 2.1, there were two versions of OS/2 Warp available: basic Warp without Win-OS/2 called “Red Spine” because of the appearance of the box (labeled “Enhances your existing DOS and Windows”). This version was prevalent because most people already owned Windows 3.1, whether they wanted to or not. And of course Red Spine was cheaper too. The other version was Warp with Win-OS/2 called “Blue Spine” (the box said “Includes DOS and Windows application support”). Both these versions were avaliable on floppies or CD-ROMs. By this time the floppy versions were fairly rare, especially because it was possible to create floppies from the CDs; it could make sense to buy the CD version even for people who couldn’t directly install from CD (or not yet).

OS/2 Warp box (red spine)

In mid-1995 the Warp family got two new members with the introduction of Warp Connect (again in Red and Blue Spine versions), extending the choice to whopping four possible versions, not counting different distribution media.

OS/2 Warp had several things going for it (in no particular order):

  • It was a reliable, efficient 32-bit OS. It did not rely on the shaky foundation of DOS as Windows 3.1 and later Windows 95 did.
  • It offered excellent compatibility with DOS and Windows 3.1 applications. In IBM’s words OS/2 Warp was “better DOS than DOS” which was often true.
  • It was a great communications tool and many people ran utilities like BBS servers in the background, with OS/2 allowing normal use of their PCs.
  • It was reasonably easy to use, with the powerful user interface of the Workplace Shell.

Naturally OS/2 Warp suffered from a few weaknesses as well (again in no particular order).

  • It offered excellent compatibility with DOS and Windows 3.1 applications (no, this is not an error). Many application vendors argued that by developing a DOS or Windows app, they would reach the OS/2 market in addition to DOS/Windows markets and they didn’t develop native OS/2 applications.
  • Tough competition from Microsoft who did their best to damage OS/2. Their most effective tools were locking OEMs into Windows preload agreements and preventing ISVs from developing OS/2 applications.
  • Perceived (or even real) lack of commitment from IBM. Things like IBM not preloading OS/2 on some IBM hardware did not help customers gain confidence in OS/2 at all.
  • IBM’s poor marketing. IBM just didn’t know how to sell OS/2. They were traditionally very good at targeting corporate customers but mass marketing is a very different subject.

And now let’s take a closer look at the improvements over the previous versions of OS/2. First the technical differences:

  • OS/2 Warp supported an improved executable format offering much better compression (not compatible with OS/2 2.11 and earlier). Unfortunately few developers used it, precisely because it wasn’t compatible with older versions.
  • Improved display and printer driver models, making it easier for developers to write drivers for these devices. Even so, writing a display driver was a massive undertaking. This fact contributed to the lack of drivers.
  • Improved multimedia, adding support for TV cards, video capture boards and similar devices.
  • Much larger selection of available drivers (OS/2 2.1 really didn’t have many).

There were numerous usability enhancements as well:

  • The ability to temporarily alter the boot process with Alt-F1. This was many users’ favorite. Up to version 2.1, the fixed boot sequence one of the worst usability problems. OS/2 users could not afford to live without having bootable floppies handy until Warp.
  • Improved desktop layout, new icons, more attractive color scheme.
  • Greatly improved and much better looking tutorial program for novice users.

Here’s what OS/2 Warp looked like right after installation:

Cleaner and nicer than OS/2 2.11 wich one brand new feature—the LaunchPad at the bottom of the Desktop. The LaunchPad was a neat feature and demonstrated the power of the WPS with full drag-and-drop support.


I installed OS/2 Warp without Win-OS/2 (Red Spine), the more popular version. It came in a nice glossy cardboard box and contained two 3½” HD floppies and two CDs (obviously this was the CD-ROM version). One CD contained the operating system, drivers and sample multimedia files (sounds and movies). The other CD held the Bonus Pak, a set of applications and tools of which the two most important ones were IBM Works and IBM Internet Connection for OS/2. Also in the box was a nice User’s Guide and a directory of OS/2 ISVs and consultants.

Installing OS/2 Warp on a test system (a Pentium III-600 with 256MB RAM and a 32MB Matrox G400) was straightforward after building updated boot floppies with the latest IDE and floppy drivers. Installing from a CD didn’t even take long. Once the basic OS was set up, drivers for the Matrox graphics card were installed and the system was ready for use.

The test system was later upgraded to OS/2 Warp Connect with Win-OS/2 (Blue Spine).

The Big Thing

The biggest new thing in OS/2 Warp was of course the Internet. OS/2 suported the Internet long before Microsoft even realized its importance. This time the catchphrase on the box read “Your on-ramp to the information superhighway”.

The “superhighway” stuff was contained on the second CD, the BonusPak disk. Next to FaxWorks, VideoIn or IBM Works there was IBM Internet Connection for OS/2. It was aimed purely at dial-up users and contained an IBM dialer plus “Dial Other Internet Providers” (DOIP) dialer, at that time only supporting SLIP and not the newer and later prevalent PPP.

Basic Internet client software was also supplied—FTP, Telnet, e-mail, news, WWW (very rudimentary at that time). Plus support for some protocols that are completely extinct nowadays, such as Gopher.

The IBM Internet Connection was a very scaled down version of IBM’s TCP/IP kit which had been available since OS/2 1.3 days.

Warp Connect

As mentioned above, in 1995 IBM introduced OS/2 Warp Connect. This was basically a bundle of several existing IBM products. In addition to the base system and BonusPak, Warp Connect included IBM’s LAN client (with optional peer functionality), Novell NetWare requester, TCP/IP support and LAN Distance (remote LAN access). Thus Warp Connect was indeed very well connected.

Warp Connect box (blue spine)

This merging of several previously standalone products made things a little confusing, especially for newcomers. For basic networking support there was MPTS (Multi-Protocol Transport Services) which was required by all the other products. The IBM LAN Requester had not changed much since OS/2 1.x days, still supporting the familiar NET command. IBM Peer was a very scaled down version of the LAN Server without most administration tools. Perhaps the most interesting of the pack was the TCP/IP support. Again it was a somewhat scaled-down version of IBM’s TCP/IP kit without NFS support, X server and similar esoteric software. What it did include however was full support for TCP/IP transport protocols and a number of client applications: FTP, Telnet, Gopher, e-mail, news (NNTP) and WWW—much like the IBM Internet Connection in plain OS/2 Warp.

This is what Warp Connect looked like after installation (with IBM Peer and TCP/IP installed):

There are quite a few more folders than in plain Warp and there could be even more if all options had been installed. This is what WebExplorer, one of the early web browsers, looked like:

Even this old WebExplorer 1.01 can still render some of the web’s most interesting pages.


Users of OS/2 Warp could choose from a relatively wide palette of applications. There were word processors, spreadsheets, database programs, development tools, communications programs. After taking a brief look at several vector drawing programs, word processors and application development tools I decided that now there’s time for image manipulation programs.

There is one very technical reason for this: Image manipulation programs need high resolution—especially high color resolution—and there were no drivers for the test system’s Matrox G400 which would work on OS/2 2.11 or earlier, and none of the image manipulation programs looks particularly good on 16 colors. But the Matrox drivers worked fine with OS/2 Warp.

The first application examined is the oldest and perhaps best known: ColorWorks from SPG, proudly called by its authors “The Artist’s Ultimate Power Program”. The first version of ColorWorks was released in 1995 and was later followed by versions 1+ and 2. It wasn’t exactly cheap (the box sported a $329.99 price tag) but also not more expensive than other similar programs (e.g. Adobe Photoshop).

For the most part ColorWorks was similar to other image manipulation apps but it had at least two unusual and probably unique (at the time) features: DIMIC and SMP Smart Threading. DIMIC stood for Dynamic In-Memory Image Compression and it referred to a technique ColorWorks could use to store the images compressed in RAM at the expense of processing speed. This allowed ColorWorks users to edit much larger images than they’d normally be able to. SMP Smart Threading was nothing other than multithreading support. ColorWorks could split its workload into several threads which would run concurrently. While this had no real effect on single processor machines, it could significantly speed up processing on SMP machines (at that time those would be running OS/2 2.11 SMP):

While SPG promised linear increases in performance up to 64 CPUs which is technically impossible (due to memory bandwidth bottlenecks), it is very likely that on 2-4 way SMP machines the performance increase was quite impressive.

At any rate ColorWorks was a capable program, as evidenced by one of the sample images supplied with it:

ColorWorks had all you’d expect from such a program—drawing functions, color manipulation, filters, all the works.

The other graphics program was TrueSpectra Photo>Graphics. It is difficult to say what kind of program it was exactly—it was an interesting hybrid between a bitmap and vector oriented drawing program. Photo>Graphics worked in a unique way: its output is a bitmap but it is not stored as a bitmap, but rather as a collection of objects (which can be bitmaps), text and effects—more akin to a vector oriented app. This has two important benefits:

  • The output image can be rendered at different resolutions for screen, printer etc.
  • The image can be very easily edited by breaking it down to the individual “atoms” and rearranging them as desired.

TrueSpectra Photo>Graphics looked like this—the screenshot is from an old beta from early 1996, the oldest easily obtainable version:

With Photo>Graphics it was easy to change the text and images or alter the result in any way the user desired. The output was turned into a single bitmap only when it was printed or exported to disk.

OS/2 in the Marketplace

OS/2 didn’t have it easy—outside or inside IBM. It is well documented that at the time of Windows 95 release, Microsoft was putting serious pressure on the IBM PC Company, refusing to sign the Windows 95 OEM license until the last moment and requesting much higher payments from IBM than from other OEMs.

There was also one internal IBM project that had great bearing on the future of OS/2: OS/2 for PowerPC. It was a somewhat nebulous project which kept changing directions during its lifetime. It is hard to tell what was at the beginning of this project, if there indeed was any clearly definable beginning at all. At some point in the early 1990’s IBM decided that it would be wonderful to have this cool Workplace OS. It was to be a microkernel-based, object oriented uber-OS running on a RISC platform (a very ominous collection of buzzwords). It was to be able to run several operating systems at the same time. Nobody can agree anymore on which OSes exactly those were but it is certain that they included OS/2, Windows NT, MacOS and Solaris. Why anyone would want to run all these OSes on a single machine at the same time is something IBM never adequately explained and probably didn’t even think about hard enough. Obviously “because we can” was not a correct answer.

At any rate, IBM kept changing the goalposts and the project ended up as OS/2 for PowerPC, officially called in the final stages OS/2 Warp Connect, PowerPC Edition. IBM was hyping this product quite heavily between 1993 and 1995. There were many articles written about it, and there were beta versions of the PowerPC SDK available. There were porting workshops going on and companies like Stardock or Sundial Systems ported their products to OS/2 for PowerPC (reportedly without much difficulty).

As the release date for OS/2 Warp Connect, PowerPC Edition neared, the hype subsided. And when OS/2 for PowerPC was supposed to be released, IBM was suddenly quiet. The product was stealthily released but almost impossible to get.

There were multiple reasons for the failure of the OS/2 for PowerPC project. Some were external to IBM, others were purely internal:

  • Nobody actually needed the Workplace OS, whatever it was called
  • There are many stories about serious mismanagement of the project, about middle managers lying to their superiors about project status etc.—classic software development woes
  • The project hinged on the success of the PowerPC architecture and that didn’t pan out

On the whole, OS/2 for PowerPC was a spectacular failure and had grave consequences for OS/2. The PSP division (Personal Systems Products) was seriously weakened and didn’t survive for long. Billions of dollars were spent and effectively wasted for the most part, even though several technologies developed for OS/2 for PowerPC later resurfaced in OS/2 Warp 4 and elsewhere. One can only wonder what would have happened if IBM had spent those billions on the Intel version of OS/2 instead.

There is one very important lesson to be learned from this debacle: don’t believe industry pundits. They can’t see into the future even though they like to pretend that the opposite is true. From late 1980’s until mid-1990’s the conventional wisdom was “CISC is dead, RISC is the future”. Well, they were right, but there was one fatal flaw. These pundits predicted that Intel x86-compatible CPUs as the most typical CISC processors were out and would be replaced by a new RISC based architecture, such as the PowerPC (or perhaps Alpha or MIPS). But the engineers at Intel and other x86 compatible CPU vendors (AMD, Cyrix) weren’t stupid. What they did was build CPUs with a RISC core and a x86-compatible front end. Thus they achieved what the pundits didn’t expect: RISC performance while retaining 100% backwards compatibility with CISC. And so OS/2 for PowerPC was doomed even if it hadn’t been plagued by all its other problems.

38 Responses to OS/2 Warp

  1. Yuhong Bao says:

    “Tough competition from Microsoft who did their best to damage OS/2. Their most effective tools were locking OEMs into Windows preload agreements and preventing ISVs from developing OS/2 applications.”
    I just started a thread with MichalN and Larry Osterman with the intention of asking what if the IBM-Microsoft JDA was continued instead of this happening.

  2. Fernando Valero says:

    Probably you want to check this, but I remeber at the time that this was the first browser that downloaded the different pieces of a web page in parallel. It was faster than other browser, now that is a standard feature at the browsers.
    Also the multiple personalities system was a goal for IBM, if I recall, they do this before for the IBM 6150 RT but again only one operating system was running and finished. And I think that they do this also for some of their mainframes, but I don’t know if their succeed with this at the mainframes. Probably was the right idea with the wrong implementation or at the wrong time, for me it seem alike to running linux inside OS/390, or virtualization, or cloud computing that share probably some of the base ideas.

  3. Fernando Valero says:

    You forget to comment tha this version came bundled with a office suite, it hadn’t all the bells and whistles of the Microsoft suite but do the work for me all the time that I used OS/2 Warp.
    I really liked this Operating System, sadly it didn’t take off. Still have my OS/2 Magazines.

  4. michaln says:

    Actually, IBM Works is mentioned, although only in passing.

  5. michaln says:

    The “multiple personalities” idea was neither new nor unique. Microsoft had exactly the same objective with Windows NT, except they called it “subsystems”. Although NT was a lot more successful than Workplace OS in actually implementing support for applications written for different operating systems, ultimately it wasn’t useful. There used to be support for DOS, OS/2 (16-bit) and POSIX applications but in the current 64-bit Windows versions, none are left.

  6. Scott says:

    I just found this blog while searching for historical data on OS/2’s maximum market share. I am interested in the blog because it not only covers the history of OS/2, but of PC hardware and software between about 1987 to 1997, and I started with my first computer in 1988. I never followed trends the way most people did. I used my hardware and software long after they were considered obsolete. This proved to be an advantage in many ways.

    I bought an IBM brand of PC because I was clueless, but it served me well for over six years running both PC- and MS-DOS, long after most other people moved on to Windows 3.1. When I replaced it with a 486, I “upgraded” to Windows 3.1. What a mistake that was. My previous DOS system was rock-solid compared to Windows. I suddenly had to deal with system crashes hourly or more often.

    It was a blessing, though, because the hard drive failed within the warantee period, and IBM was advertising OS/2 as a “better DOS than DOS” and a better Windows than Windows, as I recall. Since I never followed the crowd in software choices and felt confident in going it alone, I decided to try OS/2 on my new computer’s replacement drive.

    OS/2 remained on that computer for more than three years.

    “OS/2 didn’t have it easy—outside or inside IBM.”

    As computer users go, I was a strange breed. At a time when almost everyone who owned a computer had a business use for one or technical skill and a job to go with it, I was a non-technical computer hobbyist in a non-technical occupation–driving transit buses. A couple of my semi-regular routes were afternoon runs that wound their way through the IBM facility on Cottle Road or the one off of Santa Teresa Blvd. in San Jose. Often, I had my latest copy of OS/2 Magazine with me. On one particular day, I was feeling onery and held up my copy of the magazine to the IBMers boarding my bus and asked half-seriously, “You all run OS/2 on your personal computers, right?” Their response said it all: red-faced dead silence that ended only when the last of them got off the bus. I was already aware of IBM’s half-hearted, two-faced approach to marketing OS/2, but I was still a little shocked at their response; I thought I would find at least one person with some enthusiasm for OS/2. But no, not even one.

    From 1998 until 2001, I was stuck using Windows because my third computer had hardware that OS/2 couldn’t run. But as soon as possible, I replaced Windows with Linux and haven’t looked back. And again, it was the attitude of going it alone that made this move possible for me. Over the years, I have tried nearly every desktop version of Windows available. Not one of them has been good enough to lure me back.

    I look forward to reading more of this blog. Thanks for making it available.

  7. michaln says:

    Great story about the IBMers on the bus, it says a lot. There were IBMers enthusiastic about OS/2, but they must have been a small minority.

  8. canbear says:

    About a year before he died, my Dad gave me his old Aptiva 2136 E55 that he was going to throw out. Although the machine was long since obsolete, I couldn’t bear the thought of it being heaved into the dumpster. So I decided to put in the basement to work on one day.

    I finally got around to looking at it this summer. I already knew the HDD was dead, the monitor was hopelessly dim, the power pack fan had siezed and there was only 32MB of EDO Ram.

    Having worked in an IT department, I have collected a lot junk. So I managed to replace the hard drive, put in a new power pack and simply use a 19″ CRT monitor I share amongst other old machines I have restored.

    Increased it to 64MB of Ram, changed the 3½” floppy drive (the original worked, but did not work consistently well), put in a S3 Virge DX video card (better than the on-board Mach 64) and gave it a Realtek ethernet card.

    Then I decided to install Warp 4 on it. OS/2 runs well on IBM hardware according to what I have read, so I thought it was a good idea to go with Warp instead of boring old Windows 95 which was so much a part of my workaday life in the late 1990s. I had not much experience with OS/2, so I was up for the challenge.

    It was a challenge. Warp is not for the average user. Setting up drivers and stuff takes a lot of patience and reading. TCP/IP was not straight-forward and still to this day does not work perfectly. I am still ironing out the problem and expect to get there. Multimedia is very poor compared to Win95 and the MIDI driver with OS/2 Warp4 is crap.

    “Trap” errors are extremely bad when you get one and sometimes you have reinstall the system. Occasionally, the system will hang for no reason for simply opening a folder. This problem I noticed more with the out-of-box Warp4 version. Since servicing with fix-pack15, these kinds of glitches are pretty much gone.

    Freeware and shareware programs for OS/2 are numerous if you hunt around. There are some really good ones. I used LINKS to surf the web, which is an excellent text/graphical browser for OS/2 on legacy hardware. I won’t even bother with Netscape because it is far too bloated and renders poorly on today’s web anyway.

    One thing I really like about OS/2 is how easy and cleanly you can uninstall programs – especially with WarpIN. I think it is the most excellent thing. Try uninstalling the Norton suite from Win95. The registry gets full of crap in Win95 if you don’t maintain it properly. Warp 4 is tame once you get the grasp of the CONFIG.SYS file and uninstalling junk you wish you hadn’t installed in the first place is easy to get rid of. This is a huge plus for me in OS/2 Warp. Plus a lot of developers in the past give you the option of changing the CONFIG.SYS file yourself to accommodate paths for various programs.

    There are some things that annoy me in Warp, but on the whole it is a fun and interesting system to toy with. I have even learned a bit of REXX along the way to create little command batch files. REXX is quite cool for doing the odd-job script.

    I will definitely put EComStation on an old machine to use as a second system.

    OS/2 is the cousin of Windows and there is a lot of related aspects that come out when you use OS/2 for a while. I really like it and am continually having fun tweaking it whenever I get the chance.

  9. michaln says:

    Great story, just one minor quibble – after you had to replace half of the hardware, it’s questionable how much your Aptiva still was “IBM hardware”… OS/2 did run well on IBM hardware, but that was only true until about 1995. When OS/2 2.0 was first released, it hardly ran on anything but IBMs 🙂

  10. Nathan Anderson says:

    Looking back, Warp 3 was my favorite OS/2 version. The only super-obvious thing that its UI was lacking was the close button on windows. 🙂

    Although I agree that the lower price of the “red-spine” edition probably contributed heavily to its popularity, another factor that I suspect was an equal contributor was the fact that I *believe* the “red-spine” and “blue-spine” editions were released at different times, and the “red-spine” was released *first* and had a significant head start (by at least a couple of months, I think). So if you wanted to upgrade to Warp on day 1, you had no choice and had to buy the “for Windows” edition, because it was the only one available! I suspect many OS/2 users ended up buying “red-spine” simply for that reason.

    I should clarify that this is just “if I recall correctly”; I haven’t been able to find any documented evidence of this (e.g., release dates of each edition) anywhere that I can point to. I do have this distinct memory, though, of a friend of mine upgrading to Warp 3 very close to release, and he bought the “red-spine” version, but I had to wait to upgrade because I was holding out for the release that included Win-OS/2 because I didn’t actually own a copy of Windows 3.1…I switched to using OS/2 as my primary OS when version 2.1 was current, but before the “for Windows” version had been released, and relied on the inclusion of Windows in order to run any Win16 applications.

    The closest evidence I can find to support this assertion is http://www.os2world.com/wiki/index.php?title=OS/2_and_eComStation_Versions_and_Languages, which claims that the internal OS version number of the initial “red-spine” release (VER /R) was 8.162, while the “blue-spine” version reported a higher-level internal version number of 8.200. (Is there a comprehensive list somewhere of Warp FixPaks and which FP# corresponds to which build/version #s?)

  11. Nathan Anderson says:

    A-ha…found it. http://john.ccac.rwth-aachen.de:8000/ftp/mirrors/ps2supersite.homedns.org/pccbbs/os2_coding/dsn4m.txt

    Product: Planned Availability
    OS/2 Warp Version 3: 28 October 1994
    OS/2 Warp Version 3 with WinOS2: First quarter of 1995

    …and then, the “fullpack” (with Win-OS2) press release, dated 22 February 1995: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/-a016536613 (also reproduced in ftp://service.boulder.ibm.com/rs6000/developer/library/dsnews/dsn5c.asc published 15 March 1995)

    “OS/2 Warp will be available in the U.S. through IBM dealers, superstores and a variety of general retail outlets by Feb. 24, 1995 in the U.S.”

    …so, yeah, it was more than a couple of months.

    Also interesting is that in the press release, they make mention of the fact that WebExplorer, fresh out of beta, is now included on the BonusPak CD of the “blue-spine” Warp 3 release, where before it was a separate download for red-spine users (probably since it was still beta). So they weren’t necessarily averse to keeping the blue-spine release to the exact same bits, with the only difference being Win-OS/2.

    I think it would be most interesting to know if any bug fixes/code changes to the actual OS were incorporated (“slipstreamed”) into the later blue-spine release compared to the original red-spine. FixPak 3 for Warp supposedly hit the streets before the end of 1994 (http://www.os2ezine.com/20041016/page_4.html).

  12. Nathan Anderson says:

    Bleh, I meant “they weren’t necessarily averse to MAKING CHANGES…” 😛

  13. Nathan Anderson says:

    My Google-fu is strong tonight. Found this very interesting internal IBM support document: http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redbooks/pdfs/sg244552.pdf

    From page 73: “At the time when OS/2 Warp with WIN-OS/2 was made available, IBM has released the FixPak XR0W005 for OS/2 Warp Version 3, which contains most of the fixes that have been incorporated into OS/2 Warp with WIN-OS/2 and OS/2 Warp Connect.”

    This is repeated in several other places in the document. Basically, they’re saying that OS/2 Warp blue-spine and both red- and blue-spine releases of OS/2 Warp Connect already incorporate FixPak 5 for OS/2 Warp 3.

  14. Michal Necasek says:

    I never missed the close button. Double clicking didn’t seem so hard 🙂

    Anyway, your recollection is correct. the OS/2 Warp announcement letter (294-667) listed the red spine planned availability date as Oct 28, 1994. The blue spine planned availability was “first quarter 1995”. I wonder why such a gap. Especially when for OS/2 Warp Connect, the “with WinOS2” version was released first (May 19 ’95) and the red spine edition followed two months later (July 91 ’95).

  15. Terry Jenkins says:

    great site i used OS/2 Warp 3

  16. Casey says:

    Hi. Found this post while Bing-ing for blue spine OS/2.

    To pick a nit, MicroSoft didn’t have to a damn thing to OS/2, as IBM did a very good job of shooting itself in the foot. I recall at the time trying to decide between Win95 and OS/2. When I read (from Jerry Pournelle) that IBM was *charging* for a copy of their SDK, MS was handing them out for free. Literally. They were handing them out at a computer fair. That told me which one to pick.

    Seriously, IBM derailed themselves with the OS as much as they did with that hare-brained scheme to charge stiff fees for an MCA ID. The competitive combine, which ended up with PCI, didn’t. Look what happened. Both of their products were of high quality, but they couldn’t market either one worth a darn.

  17. Michal Necasek says:

    Handing out freebies at a trade show is standard practice. The Microsoft SDKs were not free. So if people based their decisions on that, Microsoft indeed didn’t have to do a damn thing.

    The whole thing about MCA is a lot of FUD too, and although IBM certainly didn’t handle it as well as they could, comparing MCA and PCI doesn’t make sense. There’s a 5-year gap between the two, and in that time the industry completely changed. The actual competitor of MCA was EISA, and how successful was that?

  18. Nathan Anderson says:

    One of the things I’ve been trying to research is the strange matter of the changing Warp logo mid-product-cycle of Warp 3. The wavy Warp logo that most everyday OS/2 users became familiar with when Warp 4 was released actually predates Warp 4, as users of Warp Connect know all too well. And until recently, the only non-Connect Warp 3 packaging I’ve been aware of is the one with the italicized Warp logo.

    But I’ve been running into pictures of Warp 3 (non-Connect!) boxes on the internet that clearly have the new logo. Here’s a Youtube video of a guy unboxing one that he still had in the shrinkwrap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPH6wOgXu-g — even the manuals and diskettes have the new logo…it wasn’t just a change to the box!

    After some searching, I was able to find this (ftp://ftp.software.ibm.com/rs6000/developer/library/dsnews/dsn5q.asc):

    “OS/2 Warp Version 3 on 3.5-inch diskette media is available in an attractive new box. OS/2 Warp Version 3 in the new box is functionally identical to the current OS/2 Warp Version 3 offering, but is at a higher maintenance level.

    “OS/2 Warp Version 3 in the new box (52H3800) is at the FixPak 9 service level. The new OS/2 Warp Version 3 offering has no new functions or new drivers. Current users of OS/2 Warp Version 3 (83G8100) do not need to migrate to this new offering; however, they can apply FixPak 9 in order to operate at the equivalent maintenance level of the new offering.

    “The new offering will be generally available on 20 November.”

    (This was published in 1995.)

    Now, this raises some questions:

    1) Was this packaging refresh on non-Connect Warp only ever offered in diskettes? No CD-ROM version? How strange is that? IBM, you’re weird sometimes. (I have found evidence that perhaps outside of the U.S. there were CD-ROM versions of non-Connect Warp with the new logo — https://www.betaarchive.com/imageupload/1197590776.or.44587.jpg — so maybe just within the U.S. they restricted the refresh to diskettes??) If there is a U.S. CD-ROM version, does anybody know its IBM part #?

    2) I have yet to find any evidence that this packaging refresh was done for anything other than “red-spine” non-Connect. Does anyone know for sure one way or the other?

    3) The most interesting question to me is whether the package-refreshed copy of Warp uses the new logo *during boot*. I’ve heard others claim that the wavy warp logo was only used during boot for Warp Connect, but how strange would it have been for IBM to update not just the box but all of the printed materials in the box, and yet still leave the old boot logo intact? Unfortunately the Youtuber I linked to earlier left his diskettes in the plastic wrap and did not try to boot them. Also, if the refreshed copy actually uses the new Connect-style boot logo, is it also possible that later Warp 3 FixPaks actually replace the boot logo with the new version when installed on older copies? (I’m not sure whether or not I ever installed FixPak 9+ on my Warp 3 box…)

    4) Tangentially related: for Warp Connect, was the boot logo different for “red-spine” and “blue-spine” copies? Did blue-spine Warp Connect have a blue boot logo, or was it also red?

  19. Michal Necasek says:

    I can answer some of that.

    4) Blue-spine Warp Connect (“OS/2 WARP Connect with WIN-OS/2”) had the same red logo.

    3) Applying FixPacks to Warp non-Connect does not change the logo (checked a FP32 install).

    2) No idea, sorry. The announcement clearly mentions floppies only.

    1) Non-US versions were typically released later in those days. It is possible that at least some international versions were not so much refreshed as never available in the older packaging. Then again… I have a CD of German Red Spine Warp which is syslevel XRG3000. DevCon 11 disc 5 contains a refreshed version (also French, Spanish, and a couple others) which is XRG3004. CD-installable only, no floppy images. There’s no corresponding US version. On DevCon 10 disc 2 (March ’96), there’s still the original US OS/2 Warp CD install from October ’94.

    About the logo… it wasn’t changed, exactly — it’s more that Connect had a different logo than non-Connect. But I think it is related to the fact that IBM changed their product packaging and marketing design in 1995, and Connect simply used a logo that matched the then-current design.

  20. Nathan Anderson says:

    You could be right. The way the situation reads to me, though (especially given the non-Connect refresh) is that regardless of whether they set out to create a new logo specifically for Connect, at some point they decided to unify everything, and they did so well before the release of Warp 4 (or even the Warp 3-based “Warp 4 Server”). Connect was June ’95. The refresh was November ’95. Warp 4 Server was something like February ’96.


    You didn’t say whether or not you knew if the refreshed Warp 3 non-Connect packages used the new boot logo or not. Is that because you’ve not seen an install made from refreshed Warp 3? You said your German disc is XRG3000…is it “italic” logo or “wavy” logo printed on-disc?

    I’ve seen “XRG3002” and “XRG3004” levels both referred to as “Warp for Windows Manufacturing Refresh”. Perhaps 3002 is the aforementioned U.S. packaging refresh and 3004, the one in DevCon 11, is one that hit several international markets…? (It’d be interesting to know which FixPak 3004 correlates to.)

    (As an aside, I personally find it fascinating that when it came to non-Connect Warp, they seemed to consistently push and give priority to the “for Windows” version, but when it came to both Connect — marketed in parallel with non-Connect — and *especially* Warp 4, all of a sudden “blue-spine” seems to be the preferred release.)

    The announcement does only explicitly mention floppies, yes. But it also mentions that users of 83G8100 (3.5″ original Warp 3 release) don’t need to seek out this version because it contains no new functionality and they can bring themselves up to the same service level by installing FixPak 9. It doesn’t mention anything about 83G8102 (CD-ROM release) users, even though the same thing could be said to them (“no need for you to seek out this newer floppy-only release, either”), but instead they chose to remain silent on that point. It also doesn’t mention anything about international users. So it’s clearly not a comprehensive statement in some aspects.

    It’s somewhat aggravating how little official documentation exists on things like this…(or perhaps it’s just that whatever documentation there was has not survived).

    As an interesting aside, it would seem that, at least in some parts of the world, the packaging got refreshed without a change in part #. For example, see http://www.ebay.com/itm/232296550534 (refreshed CD-ROM packaging) vs. http://www.ebay.com/itm/201899114227 (original packaging), both part # 19H5075 (I have to believe that second eBay lister’s description is mistaken and that it is CD-ROM, since it is same part # as the first. But he/she never took pictures of the side of their box so it is impossible to say for certain. It would just be weird for both CD-ROM and floppy versions to be sold under sane part #.)

  21. Michal Necasek says:

    I think there never was much information, or at least not publicly. Customers were not supposed to care about such things as manufacturing refreshes. Sales personnel might have had the data, or maybe not. Nice find about the totally different-looking UK boxes with the same P/N.

    There may have been some royalty implications with Win-OS/2 where IBM started paying less to Microsoft after a certain point. Or perhaps the concern was that after Windows 95 was released, customers simply didn’t have Windows 3.1 anymore. And for Warp 4, there was just one product equivalent to blue spine Connect.

    See again table here on page 18, however reliable it is: http://ps-2.kev009.com/basil.holloway/ALL%20PDF/sg244552.pdf . Interestingly, it does not list XR03002, but it’s plausible there were international releases with that level.

    I can’t find the German CD right now (just the ISO) so I can’t tell you what it looks like. I’ll look for it.

    What I can tell you right now is that the refreshed German Warp 3 (XRG3004, revision 8.200) does in fact use the new wavy boot logo. The file OS2LOGO is dated March 23, 1995. The German Warp 3 ISO I have (XRG3000, revision 8.162) uses the old logo, OS2LOGO is dated October 5, 1994. At the moment I’m not entirely sure if I have any in-between release.

    FYI, DevCon 10 was the last to deliver US Warp 3 as far as I can tell (and DC11 was the last for non-US Warp 3). I couldn’t find any Warp 3 on any later developer CDs (up to ~2001).

  22. Michal Necasek says:

    I noticed something. Blue and red Warp, and blue and red Warp Connect, were not released at the same time. There were always 2 or 3 months in between (not sure why). I’m almost certain that when the blue (with Win-OS/2) version was released, the red spine version was also refreshed.

    What’s even more confusing is that red Warp Connect was supposed to be released in May ’95 and blue in July, yet my ISO of blue Connect is from May and red Connect from July. Okay, let’s say the red one is a refresh, but why the heck is the blue one from before it was supposed to be released…

  23. Michal Necasek says:

    Gah, I can’t read. Plain Warp red spine was released before blue, but Warp Connect blue spine was released before red. So the ISOs I have match the announced release dates. Which means it’s not at all confusing for the reason I thought it was… but really no less confusing.

  24. Nathan Anderson says:

    Heh, you and I already hashed out the red-spine and blue-spine release deltas for both non-Connect and Connect a few years back…scroll up in these comments to August 2013. 😉

    That red non-Connect came out before blue (and was the only non-Connect release that was seemingly ever refreshed) but blue Connect came out before red, and that Warp 4 was only ever released (at retail) as blue (though there is that exclusive “red” DevCon 11 release of Warp 4), is exactly some of the evidence I specifically had in mind when I wrote that the priority for the red- and blue-spine releases were flipped for Connect vs. non-Connect Warp. Win95 seems like a reasonable explanation (especially for Warp 4, which came out in ’96 and clearly had no Win32 runtime), except maybe for Connect, where both versions were out before Win95 was (in August). IBM could have had their eye on that ball in advance, though. (And then there’s the matter of refreshing only red-spine non-Connect in November of that year.)

    That the refreshed German Warp 3 has the wavy boot logo at least confirms for me that it was *not*, in fact, just seen on Connect, so thank you for that.

    The document you linked to (same one I linked to back in Aug ’13) is dated October ’95 so it would have predated the November ’95 Warp packaging refresh in the U.S. (the diskette one with part # 52H3800).

    If that document is to be trusted, then I have my doubts that red-spine Warp was refreshed at retail when blue-spine was finally released Feb. ’95. (This document could also be very U.S.-centric though.) It does not mention anything about such a refresh and consistently talks as if blue-spine’s CSR level out of the box (FixPak 5 / 8.200) is higher than any fresh install of red-spine (base / 8.162). Since it pre-dated the November refresh, it makes sense that it would talk that way if there was no refresh that came before the November one.

    Another interesting factoid: so far, 100% of the original (Oct. ’94) red-spine Warp 3 U.S. release boxes I have stumbled upon (pictures-wise) do not use the word “Warp” anywhere on the back of the box in the marketing copy. Instead, it has “OS/2 v3” in huge type, and only ever mentions “OS/2” in the text. When I first ran into such a box (remember, I was always a blue-spine user/owner myself, so I never had a red-spine box of my own to compare to), I was puzzled and thought it must be some kind of limited-run prerelease, from before they finally decided to go with using the code-name as part of the actual official product name. Instead, I think what we might be witnessing is that this decision to use “Warp” in the name was made *so* late in the game (perhaps even last-minute) that the back of the box had already been designed, and it was too late to change it. I have not (yet) found a U.S. red-spine box with italic Warp logo on front that uses the word “Warp” anywhere on the back, and my blue-spine box has all of the exact same text on it as these red-spine ones, except that someone did a search-and-replace for “OS/2” > “OS/2 Warp”. If red-spine had been refreshed when blue-spine was released, I would expect that they would have updated the back to match the blue-spine one!

  25. Nathan Anderson says:

    Also, you are entirely correct about the last instances of Warp 3 on DevCon. What’s somewhat interesting about these is that the Warp 3 U.S. release on DevCon 10 was issued as a perpetual license (something that IBM made a big deal about in the release notes…I’ll have to dig it up but the language was along the lines of “for the first time ever!” etc.), but the Warp 3 intl. releases in DevCon 11 were only licensed on a trial basis (although I don’t think the software enforced that at all, unlike some of the other IBM software released as trial-ware on DevCon, such as VisualAge C++). In the DevCon 12 welcome letter, they actually told subscribers that the licenses for Warp 3 intl. from 11 were not being renewed in 12 and you had to uninstall them. 😛

    (Many of IBM’s software licensing decisions with DevCon were actually pretty bone-headed. For example, DevCon 10 didn’t ship with a full OS/2 2.1 install, but it did ship with OS/2 2.1 ServicePak XR06200 (2.11) issued as a CSD, for those subscribers with a 2.1 system that they wanted to continue developing for. In DevCon 11 welcome letter, this CSD — a ServicePak! — was listed among the software that the license was not being renewed for and that you, as a subscriber, would have to remove from your system!!!! They were actually telling you that you would need to backlevel your otherwise fully-licensed 2.1 install because you sourced the CSD from DevCon instead of as a free download from their BBS or FTP server. Ridiculous!!)

  26. Nathan Anderson says:

    Here are examples of the U.S. Warp 3 back-of-the-box packaging I’m talking about:

    Warp 3 red-spine: http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/s-8AAOSwBOtY-7-O/s-l1600.jpg
    Warp 3 blue-spine: http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/bBYAAOSwtfhYtL2a/s-l1600.jpg

    (Besides the thin line of blue and red on the right side from this perspective, you can also tell them apart by a subtle text difference in the last paragraph of the leftmost column.)

  27. Michal Necasek says:

    August ’13 was before my first kid was born and I forgot everything that happened before then (seriously).

    I was just going to post the same thing about the very late “Warp” change. DevCon 5 disc 1 contains “IBM OS/2 Performance Beta version 2.99” from mid-August 1994; readme files refer to “OS/2 WARP Beta II”. The DevCon 5 SE disc contains the final release from mid-October 1994, and the readme talks about “OS/2 Warp Version 3”. But I also have a preview CD from the beginning of October 1994. It’s syslevel XR03000, kernel 8.162, so real close to the final release. The interesting thing that the readme files for this preview don’t contain any reference to “Warp” whatsoever. It’s all strictly “OS/2 Version 3”.

    We know that “Warp” was used in the beta cycle. But it’s pretty clear that the final product was meant to be called “OS/2 v3” or “OS/2 Version 3”, not “Warp”. The readme files for the preview and final release were dated 10/02/94 and 10/10/94, respectively, so the name change to “OS/2 Warp” happened in early October. The announcement went out on October 11.

    This change would certainly explain why earlier packaging contains no mention of “Warp”.

  28. Michal Necasek says:

    Yes, the DevCon licensing was “interesting” and not really enforced. The “you must uninstall all this stuff we gave you 3 months ago” notices were a bit funny.

    Speaking of 2.11 CSDs, I ran into an interesting problem — it appears that OS/2 2.11 SMP fixes were not publicly available. The OS itself had a part number but I have never seen an actual CD, only OEM versions like IBM ServerGuide (and DevCon betas).

    All I found was a Japanese OS/2 2.11 SMP SX63407 FixPak from 1997 that mysteriously ended up on Pete Norloff’s OS/2 BBS.

  29. Michal Necasek says:

    The images are different too, with the “Warp” version screenshots much more closely resembling the actual product.

    Anyway, I had another look at the Warp pre-release CD from early Oct ’94 and realized that it’s a bit schizo. The OS CD says “OS/2 Version 3” but the jewel case booklet says “OS/2 Warp Version 3”. The booklet itself talks about “OS/2 V3” in some places and “OS/2 WARP” in others. I’m not sure when IBM actually decided on making it version 3 (as opposed to 2.2 or something like that). But it’s pretty clear that not long before the release, it was supposed to be “OS/2 Version 3”, and that is reflected in some of the box art and CD labels. Then a week or two before the announcement they changed it to “OS/2 Warp” and there wasn’t enough time to change everything around.

    Warp with Win-OS/2 was released later (though when exactly?) and there was time to change the logo etc.

  30. MiaM says:

    Why did IBM go on selling the non-“connect” version at all?

    Windows for Workgroups and especially Windows 95 all had better connectivity, and all this were happening at a time where “power users” started to have local networks at home and people also started to gather at “lan parties” to play games e.t.c.

    If they really wanted to charge a higher price for professional use they could just have imposed some restrictions related to user authentication or something similar.

  31. Michal Necasek says:

    Not nearly everyone was on a LAN in ’94, and plain Warp supported TCP/IP with dial-up, which was a common form of networking at the time. There were also quite a few various industrial and embedded users of OS/2 who had no use for networking at all. So it made sense to offer a basic version.

    If the question is whether IBM should have offered a Connect version earlier, then I’d say definitely yes…

  32. MiaM says:

    No, of course lots of people never used any LAN with their machines back then, but it started to gain some popularity among hobbyists that previously never had used anything more advanced than a null modem for their serial ports or similar.

    Microsoft probably made Windows for Workgroups to test how the market responded to built in network software, and that is probably one of the grounds of their decision to include all networking in all Windows 9x versions.

  33. Michal Necasek says:

    On reflection, I suspect the IBM packaging decisions were influenced at least in part by the fact that the OS and networking divisions were separate (OS development in Boca Raton, LAN in Austin). Microsoft did not have that problem.

  34. Nathan Anderson says:

    “Warp with Win-OS/2 was released later (though when exactly?) …”

    As previously established, Feb. ’95, so they had a few months.

    “So it made sense to offer a basic version.”

    I think MiaM’s question, which is one I’ve wondered about too, is why IBM continued to offer a basic one not merely after they introduced Connect, but also after MS came out with Win95 in August with integrated networking. IBM’s response was seemingly to maintain status quo and then refresh the non-Connect product 3 months later.

    I think you’re right that home/hobbyist LANs were largely not on their radar since vast majority of households were getting internet through dial-up on a single computer at the time. (Also, one quickly gets the sense that if IBM thinks they can get away with charging extra for something, especially if it feels vaguely enterprise-y, they will…and it’s clear they saw LANs as a business thing.) The separate divisions could have contributed as well, though it just seems so alien at this point in history to think that there was a time where networking was not considered to be a core OS feature that the OS developers would work on!

    Does this make MS the more forward-looking company in this particular instance, or is this just another example of their ruthlessness? …

  35. Nathan Anderson says:

    To expound on that last point, you have to remember that their battle with IBM was not the only one that Redmond was locked in…they were fighting multiple perceived threats simultaneously. WfW was *surely* more about knocking down players like Netware than it was about IBM, and Win95’s networking was just the natural continuation of that strategy, I’d bet.

  36. Michal Necasek says:

    It does make Microsoft more forward-looking, but it might just be an accident of history, not a conscious decision. IBM was a huge company in the 1980s, spread all over the world. Microsoft was comparatively very small and concentrated in Redmond. IBM had been in networking for a long time and with all their mainframe and AS/400 and AIX stuff, it doesn’t sound crazy to have a separate networking division. Microsoft didn’t have any of that, they just did Windows and NT.

    Another factor was that OS/2 is old enough that initially, it made good sense to keep networking separate because it was an enterprise-only functionality which most users did not care about at all. NT and Win95 are newer enough (and in the NT case, high-end enough) that it made more sense to put networking in. In retrospect IBM should have moved sooner to merge the base OS and networking, but I don’t think their decisions at the time were irrational.

    And yeah, WfW was totally about NetWare, not anything else. It took Microsoft a loooong time to defeat Novell, and not for a lack of trying (since the mid-1980s).

    BTW I have a US OS/2 Warp box with the Warp-less (“v3” only) back. The CD says Warp on it.

  37. Michal Necasek says:

    Re OS/2 Warp refresh… I realized that Nov ’95 probably coincides with when the base OS for Warp Server was finalized. Perhaps XR03005, with 8.234 kernel. That might correspond to FP9. Warp Server was shipped in late Feb ’96 but it doesn’t look like the OS files were touched in the last few months before the release.

  38. Michal Necasek says:

    And for reference, from some IBM FixPack readme:

      OS/2 Version        OS/2 Base Operating System  Mutimedia Presentation Manager
      ------------------  --------------------------  --------------------------
      Warp for Windows    Current CSD level: XR_3000  Current CSD level: XR_3000
                          Component ID: 562260100     Component ID: 562137400
      Warp with WIN-OS2   Current CSD level: XR_3001  Current CSD level: XR_3001
                          Component ID: 562274700     Component ID: 562274700
      Warp for Windows    Current CSD level: XR_3002  Current CSD level: XR_3002
      Mfg Refresh         Component ID: 562260100     Component ID: 562260100
      Warp with WIN-OS2   Current CSD level: XR_3003  Current CSD level: XR_3003
      Connect             Component ID: 562274700     Component ID: 562274700
      Warp for Windows    Current CSD level: XR_3004  Current CSD level: XR_3004
      Mfg Refresh Cnt     Component ID: 562260100     Component ID: 562260100
      Warp with WIN-OS2   Current CSD level: XR_3005  Current CSD level: XR_3005
      Server              Component ID: 562274700     Component ID: 562274700

    I wish there were dates go to with that. Oh well.

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