Windows 3.0 is nice if you use a PC-clone, but it is a tad hardware hungry. Reports indicate that a nice Windows platform is a 25 MHz 80386 machine with color VGA and 4 meg of memory. Microsoft claims that Windows runs on 8086 machines (XT-class), but recommends a 80286 with 2 meg of RAM as a minimum system. There are a lot of 386 machines out there, but when you get right down to it, by far the majority of them are 8086 and 286 machines with 640K of RAM. Those are the el-cheapo machines that everyone talks about getting because the price is right. Those are also the machines which are still going strong after being in service for three or four years.
A company called Geoworks is betting that most of those machines will never run Windows 3.0 comfortably and has introduced a competing – yes Virginia, some companies do try to compete with Microsoft – graphical interface to sit on top of DOS. This interface, called Geos, provides the same basic features as Windows 3.0 such as pre-emptive multitasking, multiple threads, bit-mapped and outline fonts, and device-independent graphics. However, Geos runs happily on machines as lowly as an XT with 512K of RAM, CGA or Hercules graphics, DOS 2.0 or later, 3 meg of hard disk space, and of course, a mouse. Not everyone has a mouse, but other than that, Geos’s requirements are minimal. This is not to say that it doesn’t run better on a 286 with extra memory (extended or expanded) and a nice color VGA monitor.
The Geoworks Ensemble has a number of applications to allow users to do something right away with a graphical environment. Included are Geo Write, Geo Draw, Geo Planner, Geo Dex, Geo Comm, Geo Manager, a notepad, and calculator. Both the OSF/Motif interface and a Presentation Manager-type interface are included so you can pick and choose what the interface looks like. Geoworks has had some experience in this arena since there are versions of Geos for various Commodore computers and the Apple II line. We doubt that Geoworks will steal Microsoft’s thunder since it’s hard to beat a $10 million advertising campaign such as the one Windows 3.0 was treated to, but for many millions of PC users, Geos might put a bit of a shine on DOS.
Geoworks — 415/644-0883
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
InfoWorld — 08-Oct-90, Vol. 12, #41 — 13