Editorial license. (Microsoft's plans for Windows 4, OLE 2.0 and DOS 7) (Column)
by Clifton Karnes
What's ahead for Windows and DOS? That's a question we all ask ourselves, and those of us in the business of following the PC industry ask it more often than anyone else. This past April, at the Windows Developers Conference in Boston, we received an answer.
At the conference, Microsoft made a presentation that focused on two things: OLE 2.0 and 32-bit Windows. However, the talk ranged over topics that included NT, Windows for TVs, and Chicago (Microsoft's newest hush-hush project).
First off, Microsoft sees three Windows families. The first family is Modular Windows, which includes Tandy's VIS (the only shipping product built on Modular Windows to date), the as-yet-to-be-developed WinPad operating system for PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), Windows for TVs (a joint venture with Intel and General Instruments), and Windows Telephony (another joint venture with Intel). You could call this family consumer Windows, because that's clearly the market Microsoft is going after.
The next family is called personal Windows, and this group includes Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups, and the yet-to-be-announced Chicago project.
The last Windows family is Windows NT, which most of us have heard a lot about in the last year. NT, which stands for New Technology, is the corporate branch of the Windows family tree.
One thing that's worried some of us is the future of Windows 3.1. Will it be replaced by NT? From the evidence at the conference, it doesn't look as if it will be. Microsoft said that 89 percent of its future business is planned to come from its personal Windows products--Windows 3.1 and its successors--with the rest divided between Modular Windows and Windows NT.
So if personal Windows is so important, why the emphasis on 32-bit Windows? Most of us think of NT as the 32-bit version of Windows. Although that's true now, NT won't be the only 32-bit Windows around by 1994. Windows 4, planned for release next year, will be a full 32-bit operating system. Interestingly, DOS 7 will be part of Windows 4. And the Chicago project, mentioned above, consists of both Windows 4 and DOS 7. And what about Windows for Workgroups? Microsoft plans to include all the networking capability of WFWG in Windows 4, so WFWG will disappear as a separate product, just as Multimedia Windows did when 3.1 included multimedia support.
As you might expect, DOS 7 will be a full 32-bit operating system. It may even come close to the "DOS NT" columnist Mark Minasi talked about in his May "Hardware Clinic" column.
One thing's for sure: The difference between personal Windows and Windows NT won't be the difference between 16-and 32-bit operating systems. It will be the difference between an end-user version of Windows and a high-performance, security-intensive workstation version.
This is good news for all of us. It means that in order to move up to high-performance 32-bit computing, we can simply upgrade to Windows 4.
And what will Windows 4 be like? It's certain to be more object-oriented than its predecessors. And here, object-oriented means "easier to use." Drag and drop will be the primary vocabulary, and perhaps most important, the emphasis will switch from applications to documents.
As documents become more integrated (containing text, graphics, sound, and video), each document will be created by a suite of applications. The document, then, will become the focus of our attention, and the applications that create it will become more transparent.
This application transparency is one of the goals of OLE 2.0, which I discussed six months ago. With the new OLE, as you work in a compound document and as you move from application to application, your document stays the same, but the frame window changes (usually as little as possible) to reflect the proper editing environment for the current part of your document. This is a powerful tool, and something we can look forward to in the very near future.
Interestingly, this emphasis on OLE 2.0 doesn't come from some ivory tower philosophy cooked up at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters, but from user surveys. According to figures presented by Microsoft, end users have told the company that what they really want from Windows applications is better integration. And with Windows 4, DOS 7, and OLE 2.0, we'll all have it.