Warpstock Review

OS/2ís first user oriented trade show a huge hit!

Brad Wardell (bwardell@stardock.com)
Stardock Systems, Inc.
Discliamer: I work for an OS/2 ISV to my opinions are probably biased.
Updated: October 30, 1997.

Anyone who thought the OS/2 SOHO market was "dead" merely had to be at Warpstock last weekend (10/24) to discover that the market is not only alive and well but thriving.

Vendors from around the world met with users from around the world to discuss what was happening in the OS/2 market and where things were going.  This article will try to give some highlights on some of the things that I remembered that caught my attention.

The vendors there included but were not limited to:

Sundial who was showing off their next generation version of Relish along with sneak peeks of new versions of DBExpert, Clearlook, and Mesa/2.  They were also kind enough to help provide an OS/2 museum where users could see just how far OS/2 had come since its 1.0 days.  Sundial was probably one of the oldest OS/2 ISVs around.  They had Relish for OS/2 when OS/2 was version 1.0!

Adventure Software was there demonstrating Internet Adventurer.  They reportedly sold nearly 50 copies of their product to people who visited his booth Ė pretty impressive.

Golden Compass was there showing off the latest version of its flag ship product.  Larry Finklestein was able to verify that both an NT and updated OS/2 version were in the works that would handle Compuserve's upcoming Web-user interface.  Larry is the founder of the OS/2 Central group of CIS forums that has become the popular hub of OS/2 discussion.

Timur Tabi and Julien Pierre represented PolyEx showing off a new OS/2 game PolyEx was working on which is a port of a French DOS game.  Itís an adventure game where you click where you want your character to go.  Timur said that they know now how to change the resolution of OS/2 for a full screen game which if true could usher in a new era of OS/2 gaming.  Theta Band software (Timur and Julien) have a lot of their own projects on the way not the least including DSMI/2 -- the defacto leading OS/2 multimedia class library for developers.  If you're making an OS/2 specific game or planning to port a game from DOS to OS/2, contact Theta Band right now!!!  Their booth was amongst the most impressive.

DevTech was also there showing off Deskman/2 2.0, the corporate desktop management software.  One of the companyís founders, Evan, showed me how to get to the IBMLink forums via the web which will save me a lot of effort in talking to some of our best customers.

There was also a company called PerfectNiche showing off a really neat labeling program called SMACK.  It is extremely object oriented and very intuitive to use.  Check www.warpstock.com to find out more about that product.

Stardock was of course there showing off Entrepreneur, Object Desktop Professional, Links OS/2, OS/2 Essentials, Star Emperor, Process Commander, and PlusPak: BUGS.  I manned the booth and I was shocked at how busy the show was.  I had not expected as many people to be there as there were and so came only with free copies of Star Emperor, Object Desktop 1.0, and OS/2 Essentials 1.0 (if you were at Warpstock, you can upgrade to the newest version by calling Stardock or using our website http://www.stardock.com).  It was pretty clear that many people didnít know some of the cool features of Object Desktop Professional.  Iíll take this moment to plug it: Thereís a demo version of it available now at our website!

Hilgrave was represented showing the power of KopyKat and HyperAccess.  The guys manning the booth were extremely friendly and helpful.  KopyKat is an incredibly slick product and as an owner of HyperAccess, I can say I think itís a great program.

The Phoenix OS/2 Society was also there (POSSI) selling shirts, Extended Attributes (an OS/2 hard copy magazine) and membership into one of the largest OS/2 user groups in the world.  Esther Schindler herself was also there.

Indelible Blue, the worldís leading OS/2 reseller was on hand and represented by none other than Buck and Katie who are the companyís founders.  Indelible Blue is a company that believed in OS/2 early and is today a multi-million dollar company and one of the fastest growing companies in their part of the country.  They found themselves in the same boat Stardock did Ė did not expect to see nearly as many people show up as did and, like us, all of their materials were gone within minutes of the show starting.

Next to them I believe was SofTouch who of course makes the Gammatech Utilities, Unimaint, and a number of other useful utilities for OS/2.  Felix Cruz, who deserves credit for coming up with the Warpstock concept was there to answer questions and to provide inspiration to other OS/2 users.

IBM was there showing off stuff too but I didnít get a chance to check it out.

MSR was showing off the latest version of Back Master, a native OS/2 backup solution along with the MicroLearn Gamepak.

One of the showís true heroes was Hethmon Brothers.  They basically made the things that had to be done happen and I canít give them enough praise for the great job they did.

PowerQuest was also on hand, not forgetting their roots, PowerQuest is now a gigantic software company that started out totally on OS/2 and expanded to Windows early on but held on to their loyal OS/2 user base.  They make partitioning software and were showing off their newest must-have product Ė Drive Image.

Because I was stuck at a booth for the most part, I didnít get around as much as I would have liked so if there were people I missed or vendors I didnít mention please forgive me as it isnít intentional.

One of the coolest presentations of the show was Timur Tabiís Win32 project.  In brief, it translates Win32 API calls directly to OS/2 API calls in binary form.  This would mean that Win32 software would run on OS/2 natively.  It sounds pretty similar to WABI on Solaris and this also means that it is technically possible to do.  Timurís team has already gotten is to the point where it can run simple Win32 software.  Programs like Word 97 will take longer because they start themselves up above the 512MB segment (OS/2 can only see up to 512MB unless youíre running Warp Server).

I myself gave what might have been the second most popular presentation (behind Timurís) which was OS/2: Past, Present, Future.  Unlike the articles, this one was very interactive.  One of the things I really tried to focus on was that we badly need to create a Warpcaster news service.  Hereís how it works:

Each of the OS/2 ISVs agree to put a link to a new website that would be called: www.warpcaster.org.  (or something like that).  This would serve as a universal place that all OS/2 users would know to go to to find out what was happening in the OS/2 market.  Afterall, itís really difficult to get the word out on new OS/2 software and because of that, sales suffer and you get the idea of a downward spiral here.  With a universal site for getting news that is organized in a way to make it super easy and efficient to use, Warpcaster would serve the needs of both OS/2 users and OS/2 ISVs and pay for itself by advertising.  OS/2 e-Zine already has a WarpCast system up but itís not quite "there" yet but they clearly are a good candidate for such a service but there was lots of interest from users who might be interested in either providing such a service or helping out with such a service.
What was really cool about the show was that the vendors got to see the best of the OS/2 community.  Realistically speaking the only real contact vendors have with their customers are on the OS/2 news group and through technical support.  Letís just say that OS/2 users are not well represented by the news groups since the Usenet seems to be full of immature whiners who have nothing better to do but to throw stones at others.

But at Warpstock, all of the users I encountered were true OS/2 supporters.  These were people who not only buy a lot of OS/2 software but put their money down and came across the country (or in many cases the world).  I talked with users from Argentina, Portugal, Germany, Great Britain, and many other places.  These people did some serious traveling to support OS/2.

I spoke with many other OS/2 ISVs after the show and the word "re-energized" kept coming up.  Thatís how the show made me personally feel Ė re-energized.

With that, I now know that the OS/2 news groups are generally no longer a healthy place for vendors to be on and so I am announcing my immediate retirement from the OS/2 news groups (except for os2.games) as an active user (though Iíll once in awhile come on and say "Hi!").

The OS/2 SOHO market may be small but letís look at it like this, The IBM Technical interchange only gets a couple thousand people.  Warpstock, with no marketing, no press, and only run by volunteers got around 400 people to come to it.  If that doesnít send a clear signal to IBM that they cannot continue to ignore that set of customers then IBMís days of being a leader are really coming to an end as they will just be a stock-price driven company and nothing more Ė just another follower.

My overall message I tried to get across was that if OS/2 users can set their expectations in reality instead of in the fantasy, there can be great results.  The analogy I gave at the show was that Warpstock is a great hit but if the building had been 5 times as big, it would have looked like no one showed up.  I myself only expected a couple hundred people to show up but around 400 people did instead all paying OS/2 users.  But some on the Internet would try to make you believe there are millions of OS/2 SOHO users and there really aren't.  Warpstock shows how successful the community can be when users get together and take charge.  When you realize a market is only a few hundred thousand users instead of tens of millions of users, those users become empowered to do what needs to be done.

Thanks to Warpstock, I feel a lot better about OS/2 and the OS/2 market in general.  OS/2 ISVs will clearly have to become cross-platform still to survive but the OS/2 market, both SOHO and corporate, while smaller than they once were by a considerable amount, are alive and well.

-Brad Wardell (bwardell@stardock.com)