Sounds like a license to print money to me. Microsoft has finally finished and is shipping DOS 5.0, which may be the first version of DOS that people actually upgrade to. In the past, you bought a version of DOS with a PC-clone and stuck with it unless some other program required a new version of DOS. I’ve actually never known anyone to purchase a new version of DOS, which you have to do because DOS, unlike any Macintosh System Software, costs money.
DOS 5.0 sounds pretty cool if you’re into that sort of thing, since it frees up more memory (of the primary 640K) for program usage, especially on 286 machines and up. It accomplishes this feat by loading parts of itself into high memory along with device drivers and programs. This will make life on the low-end much easier, because it’s all too easy to run out of memory with only 640K. One of my clients had to give up automated backups with a tape drive system because PC File (which one would think would be quite small) gobbled as much memory as it could and complained when it couldn’t get the memory that the backup TSR (same idea as an INIT) wanted. Truly frustrating.
Lots of other features will make DOS 5.0 more popular than previous versions. It includes programs called MIRROR, UNDELETE, and UNFORMAT, which sound suspiciously like the utilities included in Central Point Software’s excellent PC Tools Deluxe package. Lo and behold, Central Point admitted on Jun-13 that Microsoft had licensed those utilities in return for licensing the "look and feel" of DOS 5.0 to Central Point. Personally, I think Microsoft came out ahead, but Central Point is doing pretty well anyway. MIRROR, UNDELETE, and UNFORMAT help to recover data, files, or accidently formatted hard disks, and work quite well in my experience. The entire PC Tools package is well done and even includes a good backup program in the deal. Recommended if you have to muck with PC-clones as I do on occasion.
Of course there’s always a possibility that certain programs will fail to work with DOS 5.0, but Microsoft has provided for that eventuality with a clever command called SETVER, which allows you to force DOS 5.0 to pretend that it’s really DOS 2.1 or something like that. Of course, this immediately prompts the joke about setting the version to 5.1 as soon as you get it to avoid the bugs. No telling yet how ironic that joke may be from the beta testers and early users.
Other nice features in DOS 5.0 include a completely rewritten shell, DOSSHELL, that figures out the appropriate mode (character-only or various graphic modes depending on your hardware) to run in. Once up and running, it works with either the keyboard or the mouse and looks a bit like Windows. The shell can launch files and programs, but like all DOS shells, can only open files into the proper application if the extensions are preset. Unlike previous versions of DOS, 5.0 can perform task switching, which is much like running under MultiFinder on the Mac, although it’s clumsier in a character-based environment. The final two features that users will greatly appreciate are a full screen editor (for mucking around with the AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files, which is a favorite pastime of most serious PC users) and a new and slightly better version of Basic. Fun fun fun.
Central Point propaganda
PC WEEK — 10-Jun-91, Vol. 8, #23, pg. 1, 18, 19
InfoWorld — 10-Jun-91, Vol. 13, #23, pg. 1