Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 140 / MAY 1992 / PAGE 4

Editorial license. (popularity of Windows 3.0) (Editorial)
by Clifton Karnes

When Windows 3.0 hit the streets two years ago, it entered a hostile world. OS/2 loomed on the horizon like a dragon ready to devour us, and MS-DOS, stuck in version 4.0, had lost its momentum. It looked as if Digital Research with DR DOS was the only company really trying to make DOS better. Computing was boring, and the masses were grumbling. Some people even started talking about UNIX.

After two years of Windows 3.0, things are very different. OS/2 is on its way to becoming a footnote in computer history. Microsoft has just released a dramatic upgrade to Windows 3.0, version 3.1, which will further cement Windows as the operating environment of choice. And the company has produced an excellent new version of DOS, version 5.0, that fits Windows like a glove. Today, there are hundreds of exciting Windows applications, doing things most of us only dreamed about two years ago. The masses are happy, and no one talks about UNIX much anymore.

Why has Windows been so successful? There are four main reasons.

First, there's the quality of the program itself. Windows is well designed, attractive, easy to use, flexible, and powerful. And it comes with an excellent group of support programs including Write, Paintbrush, Cardfile, Calendar, and Recorder.

The second thing that's really fueled Windows' takeoff is the fact that it runs DOS apps so well. In 386-enhanced mode, you can multitask DOS applications and customize the way they run. Microsoft recognized that downward compatibility with DOS was essential, and 3.0 garners four stars for getting along with DOS so well.

For those of us who use DOS apps regularly (and I imagine that includes most Windows users), 3.1, is a boon. Not only does it let you select your own DOS icons (which appear on your desktop when you minimize the DOS apps), but windowed DOS apps now support the mouse. Windows 3.1 earns five stars for getting along with DOS.

The third element is 386 hardware. Windows' magic act with DOS apps only plays on computers powered by an 80386 or better CPU. When Windows 3.0 was released, 386s had just become an option for most of us. A full-boat system was still about $3,000, but that was within reach--a figure most serious PC users and most companies could handle.

Now, two years later, 386 prices have dropped dramatically, and loaded systems sell for about half of what they did at Windows' debut. The 386 is fast becoming the de facto standard.

The fourth major factor in Windows' success (and perhaps the most important in the long run) is that a large number of Windows applications were immediately available after 3.0's release. In the past two years, developers have fallen over each other creating Windows applications and have made this by far the most active area in applications development today.

There's no doubt about Windows' success, but the question is, Should you switch to Windows?

In most cases the answer is yes. And the reason is simple. The most exciting apps being released today are Windows programs. And Windows programs are usually much more powerful than their DOS counterparts. But the icing on the cake is, as I mentioned earlier, that you can stay at the leading edge with Windows programs, but you don't have to give up your DOS favorites.

For example, DOS XyWrite is still one of my favorite word processors, and I'm writing this column with XyWrite now. If I have to print something that needs to look spiffy, however, I use Word for Windows. And if the document is complicated, I use PageMaker for Windows.

This issue celebrates Windows' birthday with a special feature on Windows' brand-new release, 3.1. You'll find out why 3.1 is the upgrade of the year, but don't stop there. You'll also find reviews of about 20 Windows products scattered throughout the magazine in Test Lab, columns, departments, and reviews. If you're thinking about catching the Windows wave, these articles will help you decide. If you're new to Windows, this issue will give you a jump start. And if you're a pro, you'll find a hands-on look at what's new with Windows 3.1.