Microsoft: Repeating IBM's OS/2 Mistakes With Windows, Android?

If Microsoft promotes dual-boot smart phones with Windows and Android, will customers come running? Or is this similar to IBM's failed OS/2-Windows dual boot strategy from the 1990s?

The VAR Guy

March 4, 2014

2 Min Read
Microsoft: Repeating IBM's OS/2 Mistakes With Windows, Android?

It sounds like Microsoft is working on a dual-boot smartphone strategy that would cover both Google Android and Windows Phone. Um… this strategy sounds a bit like the 1990s, when IBM launched a dual-boot initiative involving OS/2 and Windows. Anybody else remember how that story turned out?

Microsoft’s alleged thinking goes something like this: Partners and customers will have the opportunity to have their Windows Phone with a healthy side of Android to go along with it, suspects Michael Cusanelli — a peer here at The VAR Guy. In theory, that could make Microsoft’s smart phone strategy more attractive in a world where Apple iOS and Android dominate, and Windows is an also-ran laggard (at least in terms of market share).

Deja Vu All Over Again

But here’s the thing: This strategy isn’t unique. Back in the 1990s, IBM called on PC makers to offer dual-boots featuring the company’s OS/2 Warp with Microsoft’s Windows — allowing customers to choose the operating system they most favored. In the rare cases PC makers offer the dual-boot, most customers simply deleted OS/2 from their systems. By the time Windows 95 launched in August of 1995, virtually all PC makers abandoned the dual-boot strategy. And IBM’s own PC business (now owned by Lenovo) got cozy with Windows 95.

Lou Gerstner, CEO of IBM at the time, ultimately re-positioned OS/2 for servers and abandoned the desktop — but even that strategy failed vs. Linux and Windows NT Server. Another IBM strategy — called Workplace OS — called for customers to mix and match operating systems on their PCs. That too failed.

Questions Partners Must Ponder

All this makes The VAR Guy wonder:

  • Can Microsoft really make the case for a dual-boot smart phone? Or is this simply the latest case of a struggling operating system maker trying to find a creative way into the market…

  • Will resellers and MSPs embrace the strategy, or will dual-boot complicate things like mobile device management (MDM)?

  • Will ISVs back the strategy, or will the dual-boot effort further erode confidence in Windows Phone as a development platform — sending more ISVs toward Android?

Hmmm… Plenty to ponder in the days ahead.

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