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RE: GPL & commercial software, the critical distinction (fwd)



> Matthew James Gering[SMTP:[email protected]] wrote:
> 
>> Though, it does occur to me that the fact that OS/2 has a 
>> stronger faction in Europe than in N. and S. America in 
>> relation to Microsoft may be an indication that continental 
>> saturation is possible.

>The conclusions I would draw from that are IBM as the former market
>giant had a very strong International infrastructure, channels and
>reputation. Since the US market is the principle industry producer, it
>was more competitive and less dominated by IBM. Microsoft, therefore,
>had an easier time in an already competitive US market than breaking in
>overseas. They also had the underdog phenomenon going for them here, the
>local competitive market wanting to break IBM's dominance. The fact that
>OS/2 utterly flopped in the US and found some adopters overseas is
>credit to IBMs international reputation and little else.

No - I was there (here) at the time.  It was early adopters of "client
server" technology who went for OS/2, mainly banks and City finance places.
Of course the currency traders & red braces types (remember "greed is
good"?) used Unix workstations or rather got their minions to use them for
them, but the backoffice applications often went to OS/2.  At the time
Windows 3.0 was just coming out and it wasn't a serious option. (I used to
wander around our office with a folder full of floppies each with a
different tcpip stack  for Windows - they all had *bad* problems). The
Netware people will still mostly on Netware 2 which was a great fileserver
but no kind of application server at all.  The alternative to OS/2 was Unix,
which is where most of these guys went next (& should have gone in the first
place) or sticking with Netware+DOS,  or going to AS400 (which was, and is,
a brilliant platform for exactly these sorts of backoffice, administrative
applications that are usually  programmed badly because no programmer who is
any good can stay awake whilst reading the spec). Of course now everyone
uses SAP.  Or Baan.  

If there are reasons that the small minority of big  OS/2 adopters in Europe
was slightly less small than the even smaller one in the US they are
probably:

- Unix was always better known in the US than Europe

- Lotus Notes took off faster in Europe & it was 100% OS/2 at first (nearest
OS/2 ever got to a "killer app")

- European companies spend less per seat on personal computing than US, and
they were reluctant to lash out on Sun workstations

- home computing in the US was almost totally Microsoft by the time OS/2
came out but not so much in Europe. The consumer market won out over the
business market. 

- European banks and finance places were ahead of US in software development
back then. That's partly because they had been slower to get started
(especially in France & Germany) & so had less mainframe legacy & partly
because the "big bang" deregulation of the UK  stock market (world's 3rd
biggest) and foreign exchange market (world's biggest by a long way - every
dollar in your bank account is on average bought and sold in London more
than once a week) shook up the banks. So they went for "client server"
earlier and at a time when there was no credible MS platform. 

I used to  drive OS/2 for a living (for Lotus Notes mainly). It had a far,
far better user interface than Windows or  most versions of X. But it was
late, slow and never really delivered the reliability or ease of
installation it should have. The Extended Editor was the best programmer's
editor I have ever seen and Rexx is what Basic should have been - a million
Windows programmers suffer every day because of Bill Gates's unreasoning
prejudice against Rexx and his pathetic admiration for Basic - but
installation and maintenance were a nightmare, and the thing ran like a dog
with a broken leg.  When we got the chance to replace it with NT we went for
NT.  But OS/2 versus Windows 3 was a different matter.

Relevance to Cypherpunks? Sort of, in that it shows that a consumer product
(Windows) can beat a business-directed product (OS/2) in the software
market, even if it is inferior. If we want to see ubiquitous strong
cryptography the target market isn't the banks but 14-year-olds in their
bedrooms. 

Ken Brown