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IBM: OS/2 still sold here

Big Blue assures customers it will keep selling its vintage operating system, after a notice on its Web site draws speculation that IBM was abandoning the software.

IBM assured customers Thursday that the company will continue to sell and support OS/2, clarifying an online notice that drew speculation that the vintage operating system was being phased out.

The Notice of Software Withdrawal, published on Tuesday, lists nearly 300 OS/2 products that won't be available directly through IBM starting in March 2003.

That doesn't mean that the company won't continue to sell the 15-year-old operating-system software, IBM spokesman Steve Eisenstadt said. "As long as our customers want OS/2, we will support them," he said. "We don't have plans to withdraw OS/2."

Introduced in April 1987, the OS/2 operating system was the first Intel-based modern 32-bit multitasking operating system aimed at the personal computer market. (The operating system for the first Amiga computers, released in 1985, can claim the title of the first modern 32-bit multitasking operating system for PCs.) While the banking and telecom industries adopted OS/2 to some extent, any success the software had was eclipsed by Microsoft's Windows operating system.

Like Betamax, which lost its video-recorder battle with VHS, IBM's OS/2 was considered by many to be a technically superior product to early Windows, but it stumbled over the lack of applications and marketing.

A thread on the Web-based discussion list Slashdot speculated that the IBM notice spelled the official end of OS/2's life.

Instead, the online notice reflects that fact that IBM is phasing out the distribution of OS/2 in shrink-wrapped boxes, Eisenstadt said. Customers can still purchase the software online and either download it or receive it on a CD-ROM. However, documentation will be almost entirely electronic.

"Right now we print up a lot of documentation," he said. "A lot of what this is, is saying that is going away."

IBM will still advise customers to migrate to one of the company's newer products, especially for e-business, said Eisenstadt. "We have a migration plan in place so that when they are ready, we can help them take advantage of e-business," he said.