The Great Windows 95 Revolution- by Marty Cawthon

There is lots of excitement in the consumer marketplace for Pentium-based multimedia computers. Many, perhaps most, of these come pre-loaded with Windows 95. Very few, perhaps close to none, come pre-loaded with OS/2.

This easy-to-make observation coupled with the enormous amount of hype from Microsoft and corresponding coverage of Windows 95 by the trade press and popular media may lead OS/2 enthusiasts like ourselves to wonder: "What sort of future is there for OS/2 applications?"

In mid-May I received a mailing from Tiger Software. It was "VOL VI, Issue 4" of the "CDROM Buyer's Guide", with a cover price of $1.95, but it really is a direct-mail catalog with a "cover price" to qualify for lower US postal rates.

In the front page of this catalog there is a Compatibility Guide to the different applications listed. There are:

There were no "OS/2" applications listed, nor were there "WIN-OS2" listings. However, OS2 runs most DOS, "16-bit Windows", and many "Win32s applications". But OS/2 will not run the "Win95 32-Bit" applications, nor any MAC applications.

So what does it look like? Is there a developer stampede to Win95? Is OS/2 being left behind?

I analyzed all 302 CDROM multimedia applications in the catalog according to the platform. There was a wide diversity of titles, from "Mr Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley" to "Talk to Tabloid Beauties".

Here is what I found:

16-bit Win3.1/Win95171*****************
MAC75********
Win32s Win3.1/Win9520**
DOS20**
Win32 Win95/WinNT12*

If we remove the MAC titles and compare the number of OS/2 compatible multimedia applications with those that are definitely not OS/2 compatible, we see:

Likely to be OS/2 compatible
16-bit Win3.1/Win95171*****************
Win32s Win3.1/Win9520**
DOS20**
Known to be NOT OS/2 compatible
Win32 Win95/WinNT12*
(6 of these 12 are Microsoft titles)

Or, about 211 titles which are likely to be OS/2 compatible compared to 12 titles which are genuine Win32 applications and are not OS/2 compatible.

Despite the hype of Windows 95, and despite the large presence of Windows 95 in the consumer market, the "standard platform" appears to be "Win3.1 16-bit", followed far behind by "Win32s (Win3.1 compatible)" and DOS. Even farther back are native 32-bit Windows 95 applications.

It could be that "The Great OS Debate" may follow in the footsteps of "The Great Bus Debate". You'll recall a few years ago it was "Micro-Channel vs EISA: Who will win?" And the winner is: ISA (In terms of market share, not technical superiority...). So perhaps in the "OS/2 vs Win32 API war" it may turn out that the winner is: Win 3.1 16-bit APIs.

What does this mean for OS/2 enthusiasts? To me it means "Good News". There are only a few multimedia titles which OS/2 can absolutely not run. Most Win3.1 applications, and many Win32s applications run well under OS/2.

IBM's John Soyring stated at a speech in Chicago in April that it is IBM's intention to continue to enhance the usefulness of OS/2. This, he said includes improving the Windows 3.1 compatibility and improving upon Win32s capability of OS/2.

It's coming up on the one year anniversary of Windows 95 and it appears that the developer community has NOT gone hog-wild for this new product. An OS/2 user can avail themselves of much of the DOS and 16-bit Windows (Win 3.1 and Win32s) multimedia products available.

The "Great Revolution to Windows 95" just didn't materialize...


Marty Cawthon is president and cofounder of ChipChat Technology Group, which develops and markets OS/2 communications software, multimedia products, and Internet services. Mr. Cawthon is a Certified OS/2 Developer, OS/2 Engineer, OS/2 Warp Server Engineer, and Network Communications Engineer. He has been developing OS/2 software since IBM and Microsoft released version 1.0.

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