Hey, IBM! Set OS/2 Free! - InformationWeek
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12/14/2007
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Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Hey, IBM! Set OS/2 Free!

Talk about a blast from the past! The folks at OS2 World, led by Kim Haverblad, in conjunction with Adrian Gschwend's Netlabs, have petitioned IBM to release its venerable OS/2 operating system as an open source product. But there's more at work here than simple nostalgia.

Talk about a blast from the past! The folks at OS2 World, led by Kim Haverblad, in conjunction with Adrian Gschwend's Netlabs, have petitioned IBM to release its venerable OS/2 operating system as an open source product. But there's more at work here than simple nostalgia.

OS/2 was and still is a pretty important piece of work. Even if it didn't make inroads on the desktop (not that any OS has to do so!), it was widely used in many embedded and behind-the-scenes settings, such as ATMs. IBM continues to provide some degree of legacy support for it but makes it clear that it would rather have OS/2-dependent customers migrate to something like Java or Linux whenever possible.

Efforts to get IBM to open source OS/2 have been ongoing since July 2005. The biggest cited reason for opening OS/2, as declared in the petition, is because they believe open sourcing the system "will be the best option for customers who want to retain their investment in this platform." The petitioners want to have open source support for the OS/2 kernel itself, the System Object Model (which was to OS/2 what COM and COM+ is to Windows, for instance), and the Workplace Shell, OS/2's graphical interface.

Again, I suspect the point is not to simply resurrect these things for the sake of easy nostalgia, like petitioning for an abandonware game to be re-released for free with no strings attached. It's so that people who invested in them as business solutions can make the best of them with the least pain.

What's toughest about getting IBM to open OS/2 up, though, is the amount of third-party code within the system, which would have to be replaced or removed entirely. Some of that code is courtesy of, you guessed it, Microsoft, which worked closely with IBM to create some key portions of OS/2. (This happened back when there was some possibility that OS/2 would also form the basis for what became Windows NT.)

If anyone out there still has a toe or two in the OS/2 pool, speak your minds!

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