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  1. Technology
October 8, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

For those wondering whether IBM Corp’s OS/2 2.0 will be worth the wait, the International OS/2 User Group Conference held this week in London offered some answers. It could be that version 2.0 will finally see the arrival of a decent operating system with enough functionality to begin to lay the ghost of MS-DOS to rest. How it will fare against Windows 3.0 and New Technology is still an open question, but at least IBM has come to terms with the fact that over the next five years OS/2 must co-exist with AIX and Macintosh System 7.0, whereas Microsoft Corp’s Bill Gates is betting his company on a vision of Windows as the sole dominant operating system. When it is launched, OS/2 2.0 will be positioned as The Integration Platform and IBM is devoting much marketing effort to persuade application developers that this operating system is what they need to develop applications for MS-DOS, Windows, and 16-bit and 32-bit OS/2 software. Version 2.0 offers 633Kb of conventional memory with an additional 512Mb per application via the DPMI interface however, it will not support third-party VCPI and MS-DOS extenders as IBM wants the industry to standardise on DPMI. OS/2 2.0 will run Standard Mode Windows applications in a separate screen group, executed directly from the Presentation Manager desktop. Users reckoned they could live with this but would have preferred IBM to enable them to run Windows in a Presentation Manager session – Windows code will be included with version 2.0. As for the migration of Windows applications to OS/2, Microsoft is believed to be about to withdraw its conversion technology Windows Libraries for OS/2, so developers will have to use the IBM and Micrografx Inc joint product SMK, which offers conversion at source code level and increased performance for Windows applications via the 32-bit graphics engine. This engine offers up to 60% performance improvement for applications that are migrated to a full 32-bit applications programming interface, which is clearly an incentive for people to write 32-bit applications. To run sensibly, OS/2 2.0 absurdly needs about 4Mb of memory and, with optional software, around 25Mb of disk space. It will ship with games and a business graphics program – as the technical adviser to the International OS/2 User Group Steve Baker phrased it: OS/2 2.0 is a usable operating system – something that people will want to use. It is not the old IBM strategy of launching technology and then wondering why people aren’t buying it. Despite the fact that version 2.0 is supposed to be a 32-bit implementation of OS/2, a lot of it will still be 16-bit. Consequently, IBM is providing what it terms a Thunk translation layer. This takes 16-bit application programming interface calls and passes them onto 32-bit APIs and vice versa. LAN Server will be part of the version 2.0 operating system – not a bolt-on to Extended Edition. Furthermore, the OS/2 Communications Manager and Database Manager will be unbundled so that they can be offered by other vendors. One of the most important aspects of version 2.0, however, is its central role in IBM’s object-oriented plans.

OS/2 Workplace Model

It seems that this will not be strikingly evident when the operating system is launched later this month, but its significance will grow. The first object-oriented aspect to be revealed will be in the OS/2 Workplace Model where objects can be dragged and dropped and container objects are offered as folders where data files and applications can be stored together. Part of the technology for the Workplace Model has been drawn from IBM’s System Object Model, which is an architecture for a language-neutral interface to object definition. Basically, it is an agreed architecture to enable objects to be shared across languages in a multi-vendor environment. It is implemented in OS/2 2.0 runtime, but few users appear to have had pre-release access to it. Along with this Object Model is a new 32-bit IBM C compiler, which will form part of the new OS/2 programming tool set, known as CSet/2. IBM claims that a combinatio

n of this compiler and the Object Model means that C programmers can now program using object-oriented techniques. IBM is also in the process of developing the procedural language REXX into a standard object-oriented macro language and shell script with access to system services, so that all IBM applications are extensible via REXX. – Katy Ring

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