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IBM OS/2, in full International Business Machines Operating System/2, an operating system introduced in 1987 by IBM and the Microsoft Corporation to operate the second-generation line of IBM personal computers, the PS/2 (Personal System/2).
IBM OS/2 was intended to replace the older disk operating system (DOS), which, with the development of the Intel Corporation 80286 microchips in the mid-1980s, was growing increasingly obsolete. OS/2 combined a new graphical user interface (GUI) with features previously available only on mainframe computers. It shared similarities with other operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, UNIX, and Xenix.
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Simultaneously, Microsoft continued development of its Windows operating system, whose popular third iteration (Windows 3.0) contained some of the GUI elements developed for OS/2. Despite later basing some Windows NT and Windows 95 developments on code written for IBM and OS/2, Microsoft soon discontinued development of further interface features for OS/2.
With Microsoft focusing its efforts on Windows, IBM turned to Commodore Business Machines for interface development and borrowed GUI design ideas from the Commodore AmigaOS. With OS/2.20 the WorkPlace Shell was created and became a GUI standard, and future OS/2 iterations ran Windows with a reliability that led IBM to label the system “crash proof.”
In 1994 IBM introduced a new version, OS/2 Warp, which included many new features. OS/2, however, failed to acquire a share of the mass market. It survived in IBM-dominated niche markets such as automated teller machines (ATMs), but the company halted production in 2005 and support in 2006. Users and developers still loyal to OS/2 support releasing the software as open source, but Microsoft retains rights to some of the code, and the security of ATMs could be compromised. In 2001 IBM licensed OS/2 to Serenity Systems (and later XEU.com), which sold it as eComStation, and in 2015 to Arca Noae, which sold it as ArcaOS.
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