May 8, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
A few months ago, I was talking to a prominent iSeries software vendor who was exhibiting at LinuxWorld. We were both bored, and we were shooting the breeze, and I made some crack about how what IBM should really do to bolster the OS/400 server business is create a new version of OS/400 that replaces all of the Qs in OS/400 commands with Ks, slap the KDE graphical interface on OS/400, give DB2/400 a new name such as MyOtherSQL, and just simply tell Linux shops that this is a new, more rugged version of Linux. IBM could even put out this operating system–call it os4nux–as an open source program, and get lots of support from the community.
We had a good laugh at this, but it got me to thinking.
Which is always dangerous.
What if IBM really did do something crazy like this? What if IBM could put something that looked and smelled like a Linux KDE interface right onto OS/400? It could use the GTK+ or Qt+ toolsets to do it, I am sure. Why am I sure? That’s what a lot of Linux nerds do. Moreover, if Apple can graft the MacOS interface on the open source BSD variant of Unix, then IBM could do this. If Apple can mask the underlying Unix architecture from Mac users, then IBM can surely mask the underlying Linux architecture from OS/400 shops.
And, because turnabout is fair play, IBM could get even crazier. It could make a Linux instance on an iSeries or System i5 machine look like OS/400, and thereby take the sting out of using and managing Linux. Why not put a green-screen interface on Linux? Both OS/400 and Linux nerds love the command line interface. Think about single-level storage on Linux. Interesting.
Instead of co-existing with Linux, I am proposing a kind of merging of Linux and OS/400 that would allow each side to see the operating system of choice they want and use the features they want the way they want.
Yeah, I know that’s nuts. But that’s why you keep me around.