Why should I choose OS/2 Warp over its competitors?
There are many products which compete with OS/2 Warp, at least to some extent. Before comparing OS/2 Warp with those products, it is important to understand what strengths OS/2 Warp brings to the table.
OS/2 Warp requires a PC with a 386SX (or better) and preferably 6 MB of RAM (or more). If you do not have the hardware required to run OS/2 Warp (and cannot conveniently upgrade), other choices should be considered. However, OS/2 Warp is considered by far the "lightest" (in terms of resource requirements) of all the new crop of 32-bit operating systems (which includes Microsoft NT, NeXTStep, Novell UnixWare, and Solaris). Furthermore, IBM has made great strides in reducing the amount of memory required by OS/2 Warp. A PC which is well-equipped to run Windows for DOS is also well-equipped to run OS/2 Warp.
OS/2 Warp is based on a stable, proven design (which started with OS/2 1.0, introduced in 1987). Today's OS/2 Warp barely resembles Version 1.0, yet applications written for that version still run under OS/2 Warp, unmodified. OS/2 1.x found ready markets in so-called "mission critical" applications, including automatic teller machines for banking, point-of-sale systems, process control and factory automation, network software, and more. Other operating systems (particularly NT) have not had the benefit of a long period of testing and reliable operation.
As noted in (1.3) DOS and Windows Compatibility, OS/2 Warp is generally acknowledged to be the most DOS and Windows compatible 32-bit operating system on the market. OS/2 Warp users have access to the broad range of software written for these environments (in addition to the growing library of native OS/2 Warp software) without sacrificing compatibility or performance. Again, this ability stands in contrast to the mediocre DOS and Windows compatibility (and performance) found in such operating systems as NT, NeXTStep, Solaris, UnixWare, Linux, and others. NT, for example, cannot tolerate most DOS device drivers, has no specific DOS session features, and will not run DOS graphics applications in windows on the desktop. (NT also does not include any support for PCMCIA cards or Advanced Power Management, so common in notebook computers.) IBM calls OS/2 Warp "the integrating platform" because it actually lends functionality to all applications, even if you only run DOS and Windows programs.
Currently DOS (with or without Windows) is the most common operating environment on PCs (with OS/2 Warp in second place and closing the gap). OS/2 Warp provides several advantages over plain DOS/Windows, such as:
OS/2 Warp costs less (much less) than its competitors. OS/2 Warp is a best seller and continues to gain ground on plain DOS/Windows, meaning application developers and hardware manufacturers take notice (most recently Corel Systems and Toshiba). OS/2 Warp is likely to be the most popular operating system on PowerPC systems. OS/2 Warp coexists peacefully with your existing DOS/Windows setup (using either DualBoot or Boot Manager), so you can make the switch at your own pace. OS/2 Warp continues to capture industry awards. Most recently, Windows Magazine named OS/2 to its Top 100 list. And, for the second straight year, OS/2 won Overall Product of the Year from the readers of Infoworld. (OS/2 also earned Infoworld's Software Product of the Year and the Interoperability Award. In fact, OS/2, with three of the highest awards all to itself, was the only product to win more than one award.) As an OS/2 Warp user, you'll be joining the over eight million OS/2ers around the world who are experiencing a new level of performance when they use their PCs.
But shouldn't I wait for Windows95 ("Chicago")?
Most industry observers believe that Chicago (Windows95) will not be available until far into 1995. In other words, Microsoft is promising a product which will offer some of OS/2 Warp's features at some point in the future. Even if you think you are interested in Chicago, OS/2 Warp will not suddenly render your PC unable to run it. So why not upgrade to OS/2 Warp in the meantime?
Yet there are several good reasons why you may not be making that upgrade. First, like most first releases, Chicago will suffer from its share of bugs. It will take a considerable amount of time (and expense) to solve these problems. Second, OS/2 Warp is by no means standing still. By the time Chicago is released, OS/2 Warp could possibly enjoy another upgrade. (The time between new releases of OS/2 has been averaging about 14 months. The last major Windows update, Version 3.1, was introduced in April, 1992.) In other words, it will have features (such as support for Symmetric Multiprocessing and the PowerPC) that are not even contemplated for Chicago. Or, in still other words, vaporware (software which does not yet exist) always sounds more appealing than real software on the surface, because software vendors can make whatever claims they like.
Chicago will not support any OS/2 Warp applications (whose number is only growing with time). On the other hand, OS/2 Warp now supports the Win32s programming interface for 32-bit Windows applications. The resource requirements for Chicago will increase over Windows 3.1 (at the same time IBM has fine tuned OS/2 Warp to use less memory and perform better) -- at best Chicago will demand a PC no less powerful than that demanded by OS/2 Warp.
Byte and Windows Sources have pointed to some architectural problems with Chicago. These publications have cited Chicago's pervasive use of 16-bit subsystems (which will cause "thunking," i.e. a performance hit for calls made by 32-bit applications), failure to protect 16-bit Windows applications from crashing the entire system (which OS/2 Warp already prevents), and the 16-bit locking mechanism (which means that 16-bit Windows applications will not be preempted by Chicago, possibly resulting in hung background file transfers, poor multimedia performance, and other problems, even for 32-bit applications). Moreover, reportedly all video and network device drivers for Windows 3.1 must be rewritten to work with Chicago. A recently published book, "Undocumented Windows95," even suggests that new 32-bit Windows applications may still depend on real mode vestiges from ordinary DOS.
Finally, Microsoft made similar promises (on the overwhelming success to be achieved by NT and Windows for Workgroups, most recently). These promises have not come to pass. It is far from certain whether Chicago will satisfy the marketplace.
For a concise, researched, official view of OS/2 Warp when compared to the as-yet-unreleased Windows95, IBM has published a whitepaper which is available from online services such as CompuServe and the Internet.
(0.4) Special Report on OS/2 Warp (1.3) DOS and Windows Compatibility