Which Operating System
Should You Purchase
— Is OS/2 Presentation Manager Better Than DOS Windows
by Lloyd Borrett
Technical Cornucopia, September 1990
With the rapid changes happening in the PC marketplace,
an often asked question today is, "Which operating system
should I use?" The three contenders are DOS, OS/2 and Unix.
Arguments fly back and forth as to whether DOS with
Windows is as good a graphical user interface as OS/2 with
Presentation Manager. And, when it comes time to consider
networked desktop computers, arguments start as to whether
the multi-tasking and connectivity capabilities of OS/2 are
as good as those of Unix.
Clearly the common denominator in both areas is OS/2. As
the newest operating system on the block it is the least
understood. So let's take a closer look at how OS/2 stacks
up against its older rivals.
Is Presentation Manager
Better Than Windows?
Most of you probably will be familiar with Microsoft
Windows. Essentially it's Microsoft's very successful
attempt to give DOS a graphical user interface (GUI).
Software developers write their applications to run in the
Windows environment and instead of having to implement their
own unique screen, printer, mouse, and other device drivers,
they can use the drivers built into Windows.
As the software developers are using standard toolsets to
display information and accept input, the applications
themselves often have a common look and feel. Users familiar
with one Windows based applications find it easier to learn
a second Windows based application.
Certainly there are many impressive applications now
available that use the Windows environment. Many of these
products, such as Aldus PageMaker, started life on the Apple
Macintosh but were later ported to run on DOS based PCs
using the Windows graphical user interface.
However, a graphical user interface also introduces
system overheads. More processing needs to be done to
display the information in graphical form, thus 386SX based
PCs should be considered the minimum platform for most
Windows based applications. Few users tolerate the
performance of Windows on an 8088/8086/80286 based PC, and
many users opt for the added power of 386SX, 386 and 486
The Windows environment also adds memory overheads to the
system. As most of the major software developers are already
struggling to fit their applications into the 640Kb DOS base
memory area, that can be a real problem. Couple it with the
memory overheads of linking machines together on a network,
which is a typical requirement in today's business
environment, and the problem often becomes unworkable.
The OS/2 operating system was designed to solve this
problem. It delivers real multi-tasking capabilities rather
than inadequate kludges designed to make DOS seem to be
multi-tasking. A key part of OS/2's development has been the
Presentation Manager graphical user interface.
With the introduction of Microsoft Windows 3.0, the
graphical user interface looks very similar to the OS/2 1.2
Presentation Manager interface. In time you can expect the
two to become even more alike.
So really there is no point comparing Windows and
Presentation Manager. What needs to be compared is the
nature of the operating system that each runs with.
The simple fact is that Windows has to run with all of
the limitations imposed on it by the underlying DOS
operating system. Applications written to run using OS/2
Presentation Manager will have few of these limitations.
When listening to project leaders controlling the
development of OS/2 Presentation Manager based applications,
one often learns that their biggest problem is deciding what
new features they must leave out of the next release in
order to get the product out into the marketplace in a
timely fashion. There is so much room to implement features,
it becomes overwhelming!
That's a very different situation than that faced by
developers of DOS and Windows based applications. Their
biggest problem is how to make the code they must have,
actually fit. So great is the problem that we've seen most
of the leading software developers miss critical deadlines
with recent product upgrades and new releases.
Most applications running under OS/2 Presentation Manager
run dramatically faster than the same applications running
under DOS based Windows. Just compare the performance of
OS/2 Presentation Manager based Excel with the Windows
version of Excel, or likewise the OS/2 and DOS versions of
Aldus PageMaker and Ventura Publisher.
When the new OS/2 1.2 High Performance File System is
used in place of the old DOS FAT file system, we see further
increases of between 30 percent and 400 percent on disk
access speeds alone! When the version of OS/2 tailored to
make use of the additional power of the 386 and 486 based
PCs ships next year, the performance difference will grow
Not everybody needs their PC to be connected to other
PCs, and to have extremely powerful software solutions.
Their work is such that it's not justified given the
benefits they can expect. For them, Windows will deliver the
added benefits of a graphical user interface.
But an ever increasing number of people are finding the
limitations of DOS too restrictive. As the OS/2 versions of
the programs they use become available they will switch from
DOS to OS/2 and never look back.
Is Presentation Manager better than Windows? Of course it
is. But, for the end-user it's not because of any great
differences in the way the graphical user interface looks to
them. It's the nature of the underlying operating systems
that make the difference.
In summary OS/2 Presentation Manager is the strategic
graphical user interface choice for the future. Windows is
the short term tactical option to get IBM standard computing
users to accept a graphical user interface. OS/2
Presentation Manager is the right choice for the '90s.
Buy a 386/486 based system that can run OS/2 well.
Install both operating systems, OS/2 and DOS, and use the
OS/2 versions of applications where available. Then you get
the best of both worlds.
Saturday, 15 October 2011