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OS/2 to ride again

09 Nov 2015

Many techies of a certain age have fond memories of OS/2. Where Windows 3 was a crash prone disaster, OS/2 offered industrial strength stability.

IBM may have long since stopped developing for OS/2, dumping it back in the 90's, but OS/2 refuses to die. Now it is about to relaunch, branded as Blue Lion.

The launch of OS/2 Blue Lion was announced at the WarpStock convention. Who’d have thought that there’d be enough OS/2 fans to hold an OS/2 convention?

The new version of OS/2 is launching thanks to Arca Noae, an OS/2 support organisation. They've secured a license from IBM to sell a new distro of OS/2.

OS/2 launched back in 1985, developed by IBM and Microsoft. The partnership ended with IBM solely developing and supporting OS/2. Microsoft launched Windows NT in 1993. IBM’s OS/2 development continued until 1996, with the release of Warp 4. The success of OS/2 within the enterprise space saw IBM continuing to support it for some time.

Features

Blue Lion will include support for modern ACPI versions. There's support for USB 1.1 and 2.0, plus Serial ATA disks, updated display drivers, and a range of network cards. There’s no wireless support yet, but indications are that it isn’t far away.

Blue Lion will cost – pricing isn’t yet available. It will also use several tricks from modern OS’s, including installation from USB drives and network installation. Like many Linux distros, this should in theory include the ability to download the latest packages as part of the install process, ensuring that the OS/2 install is as up to date as possible.

When?

A good deal of the development of modern device drivers is already done. Work is still underway on a new installer for Blue Lion, which  launches during the latter part of 2016.

Will Blue Lion roar?

This is a tricky question. Back in 1993 OS/2 was the only consumer grade OS offering solid multi-tasking and stability. Since then the market has moved on. There's an untold number of Linux distros already offering bombproof functionality at zero cost. 

Some might say Microsoft stumbled with Windows 8, but many also say that Windows 10 is their best effort yet. Then there’s Apple’s perennial success with MacOS. 

While OS/2 has a surprisingly vibrant community, achieving critical mass in the mainstream will be challenge for Blue Lion.

Challenges aside, OS/2 is made of tough stuff. It simply refuses to die. Maybe this time it’ll carve out a niche among hobbyists and businesses seeking to use its capabilities.

Competing against a free product, or several commercial ones with big ecosystems is going to be tough, but competition drives innovation and that’s always a good thing.

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