It’s not exactly the San Andreas Fault, but IBM and Microsoft have been getting along poorly, with the latest spat concerning IBM’s new version of OS/2 that runs in 2 megs of RAM. The problems began the fall of 1989 when Microsoft pressured IBM to drop OS/2 "Lite," aimed at DOS users. In April of 1990, IBM said that Microsoft would be taking over most of the OS/2 development work. However, when Windows 3.0 came out in May, essentially destroying the market for OS/2 at many sites, IBM was not among the PC makers who announced plans to bundle Windows with their hardware. In June, IBM started showing off its own 2 megabyte version of OS/2, which was snubbed by Microsoft.
OS/2 battles are not the only place where IBM and Microsoft have been at odds in the past few years. During the hubbub with Apple and Microsoft announcing TrueType for Macs and PC-clones running Windows, the ever-conservative IBM endorsed PostScript for OS/2 to Microsoft’s dismay. IBM’s choice of PostScript was interesting especially in light of a less conservative decision to license Steve Jobs’ NeXTStep environment, which use Display PostScript for on-screen font rendering.
A final battleground is shaping up on the handwriting technology front, because Microsoft is attempting to develop its own handwriting recognition technology (no doubt to be integrated with Windows some time in the future), while IBM chose to go outside again, licensing Go Corp.’s technology. Such unfriendliness.
Unfortunately for those of us who aren’t specifically tied to IBM or Microsoft products in any way, the two companies still push the market around. The good aspect of the growing discord is that IBM and Microsoft together may well be unstoppable; separated, they carry far less clout. In some ways, it was too bad the Lotus/Novell deal fell through, because they (along with WordPerfect) were the only companies really strong enough to force Microsoft to play nice and not try to take over the entire microcomputer industry. Such a takeover must not be allowed to happen because even if a Microsoft monopoly was benign in nature (if not in interface), it would certainly squash a good deal of innovation from smaller developers who would be unable to compete. These days, a great product does not guarantee a share of the market, especially when it’s a market from which Microsoft profits.
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
InfoWorld — 27-Aug-90, Vol. 12, #35, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 30-Jul-90, Vol. 7, #29 , pg. 1