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IBM releases new OS/2

IBM officially unveils OS/2 4.0 with the hopes of turning the waning operating system into a universal networked client.

SAN FRANCISCO--IBM (IBM) officially unveiled OS/2 4.0 with the hopes of turning the waning operating system into a universal networked client.

"I think that networked computing is fundamentally changing the way we work and live," said John M. Thompson, senior vice president and group executive of IBM Software to the audience at San Francisco's Center for the Arts.

The new version of the client operating system includes Java technology, voice recognition software, and soon also will include Netscape Communications' Navigator Web browser designed specifically for OS/2.

At today's launch, IBM attempted to position OS/2 Warp 4 as a universal client for networked computing. To make that so, IBM has embraced Java, which is now built into the operating system. "We are fully committed to supporting Java while maintaining the existing infastructure of OS/2," said John W. Thompson, general manager of IBM's Personal Software Products division.

IBM was one of several operating system vendors, including Microsoft, Apple Computer, and Novell, which jumped on the Java standard last April by promising to build a Java interpreter into their operating systems. But IBM is counting on Java more than most others to provide it with a new collection of applications since OS/2 has suffered from a lack of native software.

In keeping with the networked theme, OS/2 4.0 can get access to data from Novell NetWare, Microsoft Windows NT, as well as mainframe systems.

The upgrade also features built-in voice recognition for controlling basic operating system functions and a set of Win32 APIs known as Open32 that are promised to simplify the porting, or rewriting, of 32-bit Windows applications for OS/2. The hope is that Windows 95 and NT developers will now be more willing to make their applications available on OS/2 as well.

OS/2 4.0 is priced at $249 for first-time buyers and $149 for upgrades from previous versions.