The news of the demise of IBM’s OS/2 is at best premature and at worst deliberate spread of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Disinformation). Sure, IBM is no longer selling the OS/2 brand itself and stopped supporting it in 2006. However, those who got hooked on the Workplace Shell (a.k.a. WPS) can still get their fix by purchasing the eComStation operating system. eComStation is a rebranded, third party release of OS/2 that has all the good features one knows and loves from OS/2, including the WPS. eComStation, however, comes with updates to applications and hardware drivers to keep running on more modern hardware.
In the past few years there was a push in the OS/2 community to open source OS/2. There were e-mail campaigns and petitions sent to IBM about this. Finally IBM stated unequivocally that OS/2 would not be open sourced. What this means is the OS/2 kernel currently used in eComStation will not ever be able to run as a 64-bit kernel. The current kernel will be 32-bit “forever”. However, as long as modern hardware will run a 32-bit kernel then eComStation can be a viable choice for those who love OS/2 and the Workplace Shell. There will continue to be eComStation driver development and driver porting from OSS projects into the foreseeable future. There will continue to be new software for eComStation ported from OSS projects like OpenOffice.org and Firefox into the foreseeable future as well.
What does the distant future hold for eComStation (or am I going to be stuck holding the bag if I get eComStation)? Fear not, there is a project set to address this exact concern. The Voyager project by NetLabs.org may lead to creation of a kernel replacement that will possibly run existing OS/2 software as well as new software. The Voyager project is mainly to work on an open source version of the Workplace Shell written from scratch that will run on top of a modern kernel.
Is this kind of thing even possible or probable? Absolutely! This has already been realized by another company, Apple, Inc. the maker of the Macintosh computer, the Apple PowerBook and other personal computers. Apple’s OS X is Apple’s GUI on top of a BSD kernel. Apple got out of the low level operating system writing business and ported their GUI to a customized BSD. To all appearances this has been a very good move for Apple. While Apple did not have to rewrite their GUI from a blank page the idea is still viable for eComStation. It could also be a very good move for eComStation.
To find more information on eComStation go to the home page and look around. There is also a news server: news.ecomstation.nl which can be accessed through a web news portal an IRC network and an #ecomstation channel on chat.freenode.net on the freenode IRC network.
Update Sun Apr 6 19:31:22 UTC 2008: Clarify information about Voyager, specifically about a new kernel.