OS/2 is on its last legs. While the operating system hasn't actually died, IBM is giving it its last rites.

The end has been signalled once the company released an official road map for the software's demise. IBM has released a long list of components that it will cease marketing this coming December. There will be limited support for new IBM hardware systems up to 31 December, at which point IBM will stop releasing new device drivers. One year later, in December 2006, IBM will stop providing defect support and will remove fix packs from its website.

Die-hard OS/2 users will still be able to contract with IBM Global Services for specialised OS/2 support. IBM is urging users to migrate elsewhere, though. Echoing suggestions it began making several years ago, the company recommends Linux as a good alternative.

IBM and Microsoft initially worked together to develop OS/2, which was briefly positioned to grab the baton from Windows as the operating system for the future. In the early 1990s, though, the partnership between the two companies unraveled as Microsoft pulled out of OS/2 development to focus its attention on Windows. IBM never managed to find a broad market for the system. However, OS/2 was for many years the operating system standard for ATMs.

A number of OS/2 devotees would love to see the technology given over to enthusiasts. At OSWorld.com, a petition signed by more than 8,000 visitors urges IBM to release OS/2, or as much of it as is legally possible, as open-source software.

An IBM spokesman said that's highly unlikely. "It received some consideration, but it won't be open sourced," said Steve Eisenstadt. "A number of third parties participated in OS/2's development. There would be significant legal and technical obstacles involved."

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