OS/2 Users Ask IBM for New Device Drivers

More than 30,000 OS/2 users have asked IBM to update the operating system with device drivers that support peripherals like graphic cards, DVD drives and digital cameras.

The move again gives evidence, contrary to what some industry pundits have declared, that OS/2 is far from dead, according to several members of OS/2 Deutschland e.V.i.g., the German user group that prompted the initiative.

The idea for the poll of OS/2 users came from IBM Germany, which recently asked 17 of its large corporate customers which device drivers they would like to see in the operating system over the next 18 months, according to Detlef Schäbel, spokesperson with 0S/2 Deutschland e.V. i.g. A device driver makes it possible to connect different kinds of peripherals to a PC.

When OS/2 Deutschland got word of the IBM poll in late April, it decided to pass the same question along to its members. It put the request from IBM on its Web site, asking members to respond with e-mails specifying what drivers they would like to see.

The user group was concerned that the wishes of smaller OS/2 users were being ignored, and decided that by bundling them and passing them along, they could have a greater influence on the outcome, Schäbel said.

"For IBM USA (that's where the orders come from), the client is the large customer. The needs of small or private customers don't interest them," said Schäbel in an e-mail to the IDG News Service.

The result was an astounding flood of 36,484 e-mails from OS/2 users worldwide, with about 12,000 coming from Germany. Many, Schäbel said, included employees at typical large IBM customers such as Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen and the German savings banks, he said. Interestingly, some of the responses also came from IBM employees. "Apparently, there is no transparent structure within IBM to address such issues," he said.

"The driver action proved it once again. There are more OS/2 users than IBM wants to believe," asserted the user group in a statement posted last week on its Web site.

The top request from users was for support of graphic cards -- more than 25,000 people alone requested this -- followed by sound cards and printers. Other requests included support for ISDN cards, digital cameras and USB (universal serial bus), a standard connection technology that allows users to plug in peripherals.

0S/2 Deutschland ended the initiative on May 6, and has passed the e-mails on to IBM Germany, which intends to, in turn, give the feedback to IBM in the US, according to Marcus Specht, the head of OS/2 Deutschland. "I was told they would personally see to it that they receive them," he said, adding that both he and the IBM executives he spoke with were astounded by the number of responses.

IBM Germany, however, has no official comment on the move by the user group. IBM's press office referred calls to an IBM marketing executive (who declined to be named), who could not say whether or not IBM would be able to take the user wishes into account. "The decisions on which drivers to include are made from IBM's US laboratory," she said.

She did confirm, however, that IBM's OS/2 strategy is directed only to large customers. "We got out of the market for end-users over two years ago," she said.

The initiative also comes from the same group that earlier this year advised German users on how to go about getting a refund for their unwanted Microsoft software. Sparsely-attended protests arose in a number of countries after a disgruntled Linux user in Australia reportedly demanded and received a refund from Toshiba for Microsoft software installed in his computer which he did not use.

OS/2 was developed by Microsoft and IBM, but was then abandoned by Microsoft in favor of its own Windows operating system. Although often declared dead, the operating system has attracted a hard core of devotees. It is used widely among banks, with up to 42 percent of large US financial institutions having made substantial investments in the operating system, according to Chris Wenham, an editor for an OS/2 e-Zine. In an article posted on that Web site, Wenham extols OS/2 for being flexible and easy to configure.

"For some wacky reason, people just keep falling in love with it," Wenham said in the article. "My own experience has shown that many switched after suffering innumerable problems with Windows; OS/2 was like a good dose of Pepto Bismol that made all (or most) of their problems go away by actually running Windows applications better than Windows itself."

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