With Microsoft holding its own briefing for journalists and analysts a couple of weeks back, and Esther Dyson holding her annual gathering of the great and the good of the microcomputer world, the Personal Computer Forum, over in Phoenix last week, February was a high old month for micro-punditry – but then with the 80386 holding centre stage in an uncertain personal computer world, there is a lot to hold forth about, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates is not backward about coming forward. At his company’s own session, Gates outlined his views on the next generation of applications software for 80386- and 80286-based Personals, and the upcoming 286/386 disk operating systems. Gates said that what he calls third-generation applications will include background programs that attend to tasks like electronic mail and schedule alert, and server connectivity programs for shared applications. He reckons that other third-generation applications will include advanced productivity programs that take advantage of the large linear address space beyond the 640b limit of the IBM Personal, and knowledge-based artificial intelligence programs. Gates reckons that these applications will sport a graphical user interface that provides text, pictures, and colour. Since, as Gates confirms, New DOS and Windows will work together as one product, third-generation software will enable data exchange between applications using the Windows Clipboard and other real-time linking and dynamic data exchange techniques. Key to the success of any new applications software, Gates avers, will be its ability to work on a network. The importance of networking can’t be overstated, he insists. We’ll need a great server platform, and we need to get complexity on the server rather than on the workstation. I’d think real hard about buying any server that isn’t based on New DOS. Gates amplified on this last point at the Personal Computer Forum, declaring that People will have to choose between New DOS and old DOS: Microsoft will evolve the current-generation operating system AND develop the new generation of systems software. Gates promises that enhancements to existing MS-DOS will be more exciting than any hitherto seen in the evolution of MS-DOS machines, with improvements in speed, graphical user interface, and networking, but warns, Evolution of the old DOS won’t allow the development of tomorrow’s applications. Software developers are hitting the 640Kb limit even for single applications, – but old DOS and New DOS will co-exist in networks. For administrative workers, server-based applications will include shared schedules and document libraries. For information workers, servers will play the role of database engines. He also predicts server-based applications for workgroup publishing. He also reveals that the new operating system is between 400Kb and 500Kb in size. It will be licensed as the current one is, will run on existing 80286 boxes, will run most existing applications, and will provide developers a new view of the world. As for what it will NOT do – It won’t run on floppy-based systems or systems with less than 1Mb of RAM. It won’t provide immediate benefits to users of old applications. And it won’t happen overnight.