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Reprinted from PC Magazine, January 14th, 1986, pp. 112-113. This is part of a cover story about the best applications of 1985.

Microsoft Windows
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In American folklore Mark Twain is the champ in refuting a premature obituary. Most industry watchers, this writer among them, declared Microsoft Windows stillborn the day IBM rolled out Top View.

Windows was conceived during the brief age when we all thought there would be a demand for high-performance MS-DOS machines that weren’t locked into IBM’s 8088 design. Windows was to be the translator that would allow software developers to really develop portable applications and free hardware manufacturers from worrying about software compatibility.

Like the host who continues to hang decorations for a party nobody plans to attend, Microsoft has continued development work in a way that seemed stubbornly futile.

The world is a much different place today. The availability from IBM of an EGA-equipped multimegabyte AT, not to mention the groundswell support for desktop aids like Borland International’s SideKick, have changed the ground rules for software. Attention has moved from integrated software packages, like the late lamented Vision or the sadly disappointing Symphony, to software integrators.

SideKick’s ability to pluck text from 1-2-3 and plop it into a word processor has whetted the user’s appetite for integration without the implicit sacrifices of giving up one’s trusted spreadsheet. The failure of all the integrated packages to replace 1-2-3 in the hearts and minds of its users is very simple: none of them, Symphony included, had a spreadsheet as good or nearly as fast as 1-2-3. The lesson for the industry is that the benefits of integration are no reason to compromise on the quality of the components.

Windows in its new incarnation exacts few penalties for integration. It will allow you to run most of the popular application programs; its support of 1-2-3 is particularly complete. Top View compatibility is Windows compatibility. Recently, I amazed a friend, who is a 1-2-3 devotee, by pulling a chart from one of the three copies of 1-2-3 that Windows was running simultaneously and pasting it into the middle of a report in the word processor.

The real importance of Windows is evidenced in native Windows applications. Early purchasers of Windows also receive a suite of applications programs including a very serviceable word processor, calculator, card file, print spooler, and a simple telecommunications package. These applications define a standard for applications development that eliminates the need for you to learn a different set of commands for each application and frees the software developer from having to worry about the peculiarities of a user’s hardware and software configuration. What these programs do most, however, is make me wish for a 1-2-3 that was not only Windows-tolerant but Windows-smart.

It takes an EGA card to see the real Windows. In full color, Windows has the best font display of any PC software I have ever seen. Windows changes your view of what a computer can display. After an hour In-a-vision (the first of the native applications to be offered for Windows), even the most devoted Macintosh user will be a convert. Windows’ main drawback is that it won’t run without a graphics display card of some sort; it’s tolerable with a Hercules card, but the future is color.

In order to make Windows a big winner, Microsoft must convince software developers, including its own colleagues, to build Windows-based applications. This will be easier everyday as the word gets around.

The product of the year should represent a departure from the ordinary and a challenging step forward. Windows is all that and more: it’s a productivity tool that can enhance current applications as well as show us the future.

Jonathan Lazarus

FACT FILE: Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Corp., 10700 Northup Way, P.O. Box 97200, Bellevue, WA 98009, (206) 828-8080 List Price: Not finalized Requires: 256K RAM, two disk drives.

Page added on 24th August 2005.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.