Editorial license. (purchasing hardware and software for the long run) (Editorial)
by Clifton Karnes
FUD. No, it's not a curse or a new type of missile. As you may know, those three letters stand for fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
Where do this fear, uncertainty, and doubt come from? First, there's the fear that the hardware and software you're using now won't be useful in the future. The corollary to this is the fear that by buying something now, you'll be making the wrong decision. This fear leads to uncertainty about the future and doubt about the best course to follow.
FUD has often been used as a selling tool (or more accurately, as an antiselling tool), and some have said that IBM mainframe salesmen invented FUD by telling their clients not to buy competitors' products because "IBM will be coming out with a better product real soon that will blow the competitors' stuff away." Wham! FUD.
When it comes to PCs, FUD has its biggest impact with operating systems. This isn't surprising, since operating systems have the greatest influence on how we interact with our computers and ultimately on how productive we are.
The first big FUD epidemic came when MS-DOS was introduced into a world dominated by CP/M. Here, MS-DOS was clearly superior, and the FUD lasted only about a year.
Microcomputing's next great encounter with FUD came when OS/2 1.0 was released. Whether we wanted it or not, OS/2, it seemed, was our future. All of us asked questions: Should I buy any more MS-DOS software now, since it probably won't be compatible with OS/2? Should I make sure my next computer can run OS/2, even if I'm not running it now?
As we all know, OS/2 didn't take over the world. Or at least, it hasn't taken it over yet.
The next great FUD fight came when Windows 3.0 was introduced. It quickly became apparent that Windows 3.0 was first-rate, and it was a no-lose upgrade because it supported MS-DOS. Windows uncertainty lasted less than a year.
Recently, OS/2 has made a dramatic reentry into the FUD wars with version 2.0, but this release generated little real FUD. There simply aren't enough applications running on OS/2 yet to make someone afraid not to upgrade.
The most recent cause for FUD is Windows NT. NT is a FUD arrow aimed at would-be OS/2 buyers in the great tradition started by those IBM mainframe salesmen: "Don't buy their 32-bit operating system now, because we're working on one that'll really knock your socks off."
The side effect of this is that NT has instilled FUD in Windows users. All the old questions are coming back: Should I hold off buying any more Windows software? Should I make sure the next machine I buy can run NT?
With the installed base of Windows users and the repertoire of Windows applications growing dramatically each week, it seems unlikely that NT will knock out 3.1. And Microsoft doesn't seem to want it to. NT is clearly aimed at the workstation-level PC: a 486 or better with 16MB of RAM and a 300MB hard disk.
It doesn't really matter, though. Because the important thing to remember about FUD is that we, the consumers, are the ones in control and collectively making the decisions. We determined that MS-DOS was better than CP/M, that OS/2 1.0 wasn't better than MS-DOS, and that Windows was a great environment to coexist with MS-DOS.
In addition to operating systems, the other traditional source of FUD is hardware. PC prices are at an all-time low, but FUD is still high: Will prices drop even lower? Should I wait? What features are crucial?
Here, COMPUTE can help you with its FUD-fighting Test Labs. If you're looking for a state-of-the-art notebook, check out this issue's installment. We test 11 top notebooks that offer the hottest new technologies: power savings, great color screens, and super 486 power. If you want a multimedia machine, next issue's Test Lab has the scoop on the best, the brightest, and the brassiest. Or if you have your eye on a cost-effective 486SX desktop, January's Test Lab will have all the FUD-dispelling details on the newest entry-level power platform. Stick with COMPUTE. We're anti-FUD.