OS2.GURU - Interview with Joachim Benjamins, MensysOS2.GURU - Interview with Joachim Benjamins, Mensys

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Interview with Joachim Benjamins, Mensys

TITLE: Interview with Joachim Benjamins, Mensys

DATE: 2008-03-21 16:39:01

AUTHOR: eCo Software

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Joachim Benjamins
(Mensys BV)
When did Mensys come into the OS/2 business?

Mensys started out in 1993 as a one-man company, focussed solely on applications for the then relatively new OS/2. There was no other company at that time that did only supply OS/2 software. We are using an inhouse developed OS/2 based Management Information System, which has been extended to support our online shop, which is also running on OS/2. When we heard that IBM was loosing interest in OS/2 we got in touch with Serenity Systems, who got an OEM contract with IBM to supply their own version of OS/2. It did not take long before we began to get involved with the actual development of this follow-up product, called eComStation.

Who is participating in the development of eComStation today?

Besides Mensys and Serenity a lot of support for eComStation is coming from the OS/2 community. Volunteers help with translating (resulting for example in an excellent dutch version of eCS) and porting of OpenSource components for the OS. Innotek has been an important partner for us, with the support of Odin they have been able to provide OpenOffice.org and Acrobat Reader in current releases to run under eComStation. The russian company eCo Software is another important developer, providing native applications, drivers and games for eComStation.

Besides the companies, eComStation could not exist without the tremendous support of people like Alex Taylor (GUI design, improvement of dialogs, small but very useful utilities), Veit Kannegieser (boottime detection of hardware, enabling the boot system with which the installation is started on modern PC's) and Chuck McKinnis (who manages all the IBM updates and created and maintains singlehandedly the eComStation Maintenance Tool). We are very lucky to have these people around!

Of course the OpenSource portal Netlabs (managed by Adrian Gschwend) is of incredible value to eCS, providing the possibility to maintain several projects and many products already found their way into eCS. Chris Wohlgemut has provided some very valuable extensions to the MultiMedia subsystem of eComStation for example.

What is the "ideal eComStation"? What is the goal of the eComStation business?

The ideal eComStation doesn't exist probably... The main goal will be to keep eComStation running on the ever-evolving hardware, with as good performance as possible. Besides that, I think the most important is to keep backward compatibility and interoperability with other OS-es at the best level possible. Of course, the main attraction of OS/2 (and thus eComStation) has always been the ease of use of the WorkPlaceShell (userinterface), so we should certainly keep, improve and extend that.

Let's invite readers to read the eComStation roadmap

eComStation version 2.0 Release Candidate is accessible to customers of the Software Subscription Services. As you can see, eComStation is alive and kicking and will be further enhanced in the near future. Especially the support for installation onto JFS volumes offers a great increase in performance, which is noticable on every system.

What is the target market of eComStation?

There are two main markets I see for eComStation currently:

  • existing OS/2 customers that want to maintain their applications, stability and other features they have come to expect of an OS. These are endusers, but mainly corporations that are longtime OS/2 users.
  • customers that want to have a hassle free internet browsing experience. These can be Cyber Cafe's, endusers, students etc. The fact that eComStation is free of viri, spyware, adware, trojans etc. is becoming a real important advantage nowadays. With modern browsers available, as Firefox and Thunderbird, eCS is a great choice for those not wanting to be alert on hacker-attacks every minute spent online.

How are you going attract new users to our platform?

To convince people of the power, performance and ease of use of eComStation we launched the eComStation Demo CD which is similar to the "Knoppix LiveCD", and enables the potential customer to run eCS on his PC system without ever touching the harddrive. This CD will give an impression of the OS and is distributed over the Internet. In the first two weeks of availability it had over 3.000 downloads, proving there certainly is interest in eComStation! Of course, the Demo CD can also be included with magazines and such.

Besides promoting the OS like this we will need to improve on the available development tools of course, so new applications can be created. There are some toolkits readily available, but we would like to add more, with Eclipse being an important one.

Please, remind the Internet infrastructure of eComStation.

The eComStation network consists of several servers:

localized websites, not run by Serenity Systems and/or Mensys are for example:

eComStation has many competitors. How do you compete?

Since eComStation is really a niche-player, we do not have that many competitors. Our customers choose eComStation because they are convinced of the qualities, mentioned earlier, or because they need to support a specific application. Of course, when you look at 'just the Operating system' there is an amazing amount of competitors out there, but no one really offers all the features and compatibility eComStation does out of the box.

Mensys is serving users from dozens of countries. Do you cope with the work?

Mensys has indeed customers from all over the world. Since the 1.2 version of eComStation we are also the worldwide distributor of this great Operating System, which means we get a lot of support calls and requests. We try to improve our support by streamlining the online knowledgebase and fora, as well as setting up a worldwide network of eComStation consultants. These will be mainly targetting corporate customers, but endusers will be able to get professional support as well, provided they are prepared to pay for it.

How do you communicate with foreign customers? Or Mensys personnel consists of polyglots?

We have a network of resellers that sell eComStation (and other products) in their area. They also provide first-line support. This enables us to serve many countries without knowing all local habits and languages.

OS/2 survived thanks to the activity of standalone users. What happens today?

Right now we see a small increase in corporate purchases of eComStation. Of course, since IBM will no longer sell licenses directly, we may experience even more of those sales, as eComStation effectively is OS/2 with some interesting additions, including scripted installation and extended support for hardware.

The real challenge lies in extending sales in the existing market. For the professional (office) worker eComStation provides all tools required, like an office suite, internet browser, email client etc. We may need to add up to date support for Lotus Notes and other mainstream office applications to make it even more viable. With the Host Access feature, the connectivity with Mainframe computers is readily available, which has always been a strong point of OS/2.

Attracting homeusers is possible with the absense of viri and spyware, but we would need to improve multimedia further to accomodate the demands of the modern PC user fully. Of course, the basic features like playing streaming audio from the Internet via the WPS are already included.

eComStation is a carrier rocket for products developed by software developers. How to join eComStation?

Developers can contact us to include their application on the 'extra' CD2 which ships with eComStation to attract more users. It is also possible to host a project on the BetaZone, to which all eComStation customers have access. eComStation users are always eager to test new applications and tend to provide feedback on anything they can try :)

What is the current version of eComStation? How to purchase?

Serenity released the eComStation 1.2R (Media Refresh) version, which contains a lot of small (and less small) bugfixes, improvements and updated drivers and applications. This version does not include new functionaity, such as the eComStation version 2.0 beta does.

The eComStation 1.2R version will be the first release that will have an Italian language version, Spanish and Taiwanese (DBCS) version available. Of course, German, Dutch and Russian versions are available as well.

We try to improve the support for other NLV's as good as possible, luckily our buildsystem has been highly tuned over time, so this is more maintainable than ever before.