DOS upgrade launch

At 120 million users worldwide, dos is, by far, the most popular personal computer operating system.So when Microsoft announced its Version 6.0 dos upgrade last month, it had a large constituency to reach.Wanting to bring the word to as many people...

At 120 million users worldwide, dos is, by far, the most popular personal computer operating system.

So when Microsoft announced its Version 6.0 dos upgrade last month, it had a large constituency to reach.

Wanting to bring the word to as many people as possible, the Bellevue, Wash.-based software company staged the world’s largest user group meeting.

Through the use of satellite video downlinks, Microsoft connected its founder and chief executive officer, Bill Gates, with 15,000 users in Canada, the u.s. and Mexico.

Canadian user groups took part in the launch in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal.

Interestingly, next to the user group meeting hosted by Gates in San Francisco, the largest number of people were to be found at the 1,100-member group in Winnipeg.

But the launch represented only the most recent chapter in the history of one of the most successful computer operating systems.

Basic program

A computer operating system is the basic program loaded into a computer that defines the way the computer will work.

Shortly after dos was released in 1981, its use mushroomed and it soon became a defining standard for personal computers.

‘ms-dos provided the binary compatibility needed to create the pc industry,’ Marc Camm, system product marketing manager for Microsoft Canada says.

‘Before that, certain versions of programs would only run on certain versions of hardware, Camm says. ‘With ms-dos, any [program] written in it would run on ibm or ibm-compatible machines.’

As word processing, accounting, game and specialist programs for dos blossomed throughout the 1980s, Microsoft kept pace through a series of dos upgrades that added new features and utilities.

The most prominent new addition in dos 6.0 is a feature that doubles the disk space on the user’s computer.

Spinning on that feature, Microsoft placed a teaser ad in computer trade journals which read: ‘Announcing the launch of the biggest space program this side of Cape Canaveral.’

The ads also listed satellite co-ordinates so those with satellite dishes could tune in on their own and watch Gates as he fielded user queries during the product launch.

The trade ads were part of a $500,000 Canadian ad campaign by Toronto’s Chiat/Day.

The campaign included space bought in business and consumer publications as well as radio spots and billboards.

Microsoft also initiated a direct mail campaign known as ‘Upgrade Your World,’ which included an advisory disk that would scan your pc and tell you what new versions of applications software would be available, should you decide to step up to dos 6.0.

Low price tactic

Microsoft is pricing the upgrade relatively low in the marketplace with the hope of generating a high volume of sales.

Richard Morochove, president of Toronto-based computer consulting firm Morochove & Associates, says ‘ms-dos is Microsoft’s cash cow.’

‘Microsoft hasn’t said how many copies they expect to sell, but I think you’re looking at 15 million or more [in North America,]‘ Morochove says.

According to Evans Research of Willowdale, Ont., dos-based machines make up 85% of the Canadian pc market.

Competitors

ibm’s OS/2 operating system has 1% of the market, with the remaining 14% made up of ‘other’ systems  Apple’s Macintosh operating system being one of the notable ‘others.’

Microsoft is not the sole vendor of dos.

ibm has its own version of dos, based on Microsoft’s, and plans to come out with its own Version 6.0 later this year.

ibm is not a major player in the dos upgrade market, however, preferring instead to place its biggest push behind OS/2.

Digital Research also came out with a version of its own, known as dr-dos.

Digital Research has since been bought by local area network (lan) vendor Novell.

Novell is targetting its product, now known as Novell DOS, at the telecommunications industry and users of its Netware LAN.

If you think all this is complicated, the waters are further muddied by Microsoft Windows.

Windows is not an operating system. Rather, it is an operating environment that runs on dos and changes the way the user interfaces with the computer.

Windows NT

But Microsoft’s next version of Windows, Windows NT, will combine the Windows operating environment with a disk operating system, eliminating the need for dos.

According to Morochove, Windows NT will play an increasingly important role in Microsoft’s future.

‘I don’t think that Microsoft is looking at dos as the key to its future,’ Morochove says. ‘It’s looking at Windows and, more importantly, the Windows NT operating system.’

Morochove estimates Windows NT, which is expected to hit the market later this year, will capture as much a 25% of the market over the next five years.

And its main opponent could well be ibm’s OS/2.

ibm released Version 2.0 of its OS/2 operating system in 1991.

At the time, ibm billed it as the operating system that ‘runs dos better than dos and Windows better than Windows.’

Since its introduction, OS/2 has found favor among corporate users, although its dent in the overall market has been small.

But Big Blue is hoping to increase OS/2′s penetration of the non-corporate computing market when it releases Version 2.1 of the program later his year.