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April 1, 1987

IBM’s PERSONAL LAUNCH TODAY “WILL BE MAINLY VAPOURWARE”

By CBR Staff Writer

Any further speculation will be academic in just a few hours, but IBM’s announcements usually conceal much more than they reveal, so the latest intelligence picked up by our US associate Technology News of America is worth bearing in mind as details of the announcement come out. And TNA hears from sources deep within IBM that the announcements will be, in the main, vapourware. They say that the most important item in the announcement will be OS/2, an operating system that will not be generally available until the first quarter of 1988 – nearly a year from now. OS/2 will be touted as a multi-tasking, virtual operating system, but even when ultimately released, it will be capable of running only one old-style PC-DOS job at a time. It is said to incorporate a new windowing system reminiscent of that on the Apple Macintosh, which will render existing versions of Microsoft Windows obsolete. Also, the sources add, IBM will be unable to offer the 80386-based Personal for several months, but we understand that the machine will feature in the announcement. The announcements will also include recast 8086 boxes limited to running PC-DOS as well as 80286 machines that provide hardware assists for the forthcoming OS/2. A version of OS/2 will be promised to users of installed IBM Personal AT and XT 286 machines; it will not, however, provide any of the services that are supported by new hardware. These services include hardware assistance for proprietary database software and some communications tasks. IBM’s home-brew relational database manager could spell the beginning of the end for independent DBMS providers. To debase dBase and its rivals, IBM’s database system is said to be closely tied to its new hardware, and carefully wrapped in promises of SQL-related future enhancements. This DBMS software, as well as new hardware-supported communications features, will differentiate the IBM Personal Systems from old Personals, and, possibly, from Personalikes. However, full support for these new features may come even later than the OS/2 release. With its announcement, IBM will add a new PC-DOS 3.3 release that includes a new windowing front end, but the manufacturer may caution software developers that certain specifications are subject to revision as OS/2 moves toward completion. Microsoft, which makes more money from the cloners than from IBM, will separately offer a generic MS-OS/2 and upgraded MS-DOS 3.3 in parallel with its IBM-only versions. It will be up to clone manufacturers to determine whether hardware or software will support the features on IBM’s new machines that are tightly bound to proprietary electronic circuits.

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