IBM gets head start with new OS/2 Warp


Why wait? That's the question computer users can expect to consider in coming weeks from IBM Corp. as the company

peddles OS/2 Warp, its improved software product to control a PC's basic functions.

Big Blue's personal software products division last week announced the third-generation of its operating system, touting it as quicker, easy-to-use and designed for small business, home computer and corporate users. Features include one-step access to the Internet, the global system of computer networks, and the ability to view and transmit personal photos to friends or family. Starting price is about $80.

Launching the OS/2 Warp sets the stage for a formal IBM vs. Microsoft Corp. battle over which company's product computer users will prefer. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, once a partner with IBM until a split five years ago, expects to unveil its new operating system product, Windows 95, by mid-1995, several months behind an original winter 1994 release date. "We're getting all the bugs out," said Kelly Stremel, a spokeswoman for Microsoft.

Even with a head start of sorts, IBM has much ground to cover. Microsoft sold about 18.5 million copies of its Windows program in 1993 and IBM sold 1.7 million copies of OS/2, according to San Jose, Calif.-based Dataquest, an industry research firm.

IBM poked fun at Microsoft's time delay numerous times last week, making the point that it provided "a window of opportunity." Big Blue's rollout of OS/2 Warp even employed first-generation and third-generation "Star Trek" actors Leonard Nimoy and Kate Mulgrew to promote the OS/2 Warp name.

"This is going to take you where no man, woman or operating system has gone before," Ms. Mulgrew said during a closed-circuit television presentation at a packed Broadway theater.

Laura Sanders, director of the OS/2 Warp program, said IBM has taken its base systems and added some pizazz. "We've built in a number of user-friendly features and taken the scare away from the user."

There are many commercial applications. For example, real estate sales presentations can be enhanced by incorporating photos of a property with a computer listing, said Jack Boyce of the OS/2 Warp development senior technical staff.

Bill Robbins, an IBM spokesman in Austin, Texas, said Big Blue is targeting about 6 million users of its earlier multitasking operating systems, which have been around since March 1992. IBM also is going after an estimated 50 million to 60 million users of Microsoft's Windows products, he said.

IBM said that the OS/2 Warp system for users who already have the Disk Operating System or Microsoft's Windows will list for $129 but have an expected retail price of less than $80. Expect to find OS/2 Warp in stores by the end of the month. A second edition, for users without Windows, will be available shortly after the first version with a list price of $199 and an expected retail price of less than $130.

Both editions will be shipped with a BonusPak of popular applications including word processing, spread sheet, database and other programs.

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