What was IBM’s OS/2, and why did it lose to Windows?


Level 48
Content Creator
Apr 24, 2016
IBM’s OS/2 operating system, first released in 1987, occupies a strange place in PC lore. If you were around back then, you probably heard that it was once better than Windows, yet few people used it. So, what was the deal with OS/2? Let’s find out!

OS/2 Was Intended to Replace DOS
OS/2 (Operating System/2) debuted in 1987 with the IBM PS/2 line. This line was designed to take IBM’s PC series to new heights with new standards, like VGA, the PS/2 mouse and keyboard interface, and the Micro Channel architecture (MCA) bus. It made sense to have a new operating system, as well, and OS/2 fit the bill.
(Ironically, the best-selling lower-end models of the PS/2 line didn’t have the cutting-edge hardware features and ran PC-DOS with Windows, instead.)

Development of OS/2 started in 1985 as a joint project between IBM and Microsoft, which developed the PC-DOS operating system that shipped with IBM machines. The partners intended to replace DOS with an advanced 32-bit protected mode operating system that would provide the software framework for advanced future applications.

For a time, Microsoft primarily developed OS/2, and even released its own private label version called, unsurprisingly, “Microsoft OS/2.” However, after the massive success of Windows 3.0 in 1990, the partnership between IBM and Microsoft ended. IBM developed future versions of OS/2 on its own, and the product line diverged significantly from Windows.

Still, OS/2 remained notable during the early-to-mid ’90s for being a 32-bit protected mode operating system (starting with version 2.0) for IBM PC compatibles. This allowed preemptive multitasking of multiple OS/2, DOS, or Windows apps simultaneously in a rock-solid way.

It also did this at a time when Microsoft’s MS-DOS and Windows ecosystem was, generally, less stable and less full-featured. Those capabilities won OS/2 many fans, but it still never had the same market impact as Windows.
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Level 30
Jan 28, 2018
I don't think the existence of an office can be ignored. I think the reason Window came out was to market the office. Gaining market share has little to do with product superiority or inferiority.
There was also an excellent OS in Japan.