To fans of Star Trek, the word warp conjures up images of time and space travel, in which a warp factor produces staggering acceleration. Why, then, are business magazines full of advertisements telling people to "get warped"? The answer is because Warp is the official nickname of IBM's latest graphical operating system for personal computers.

The use of an off-beat name is not the only aspect of Warp that represents a departure for America's long-suffering computer giant. The program's success may mark the end of IBM's long run of wonderful but unmarketed technologies.

Names have been part of the problem. While companies with a more human face call their products after fruits or physical objects, IBM goes for acronyms and numbers every time.

The new Warp is an extended and updated version of IBM's OS/2, or Operating System 2. Even before Warp, OS/2 had a reputation for being more reliable than Microsoft's Windows, but IBM failed to sell it to home consumers and small businesses.

Big Blue is in with a chance at last. While Microsoft's own update of Windows has been repeatedly delayed, more than a million copies of Warp have already been shipped.

Warp costs $90, has a stylish ad campaign, offers a degree of Internet access and can run Windows programs faster than Windows itself. Whether it will crumble under Bill Gates's firepower in the summer remains to be seen.