date approaches, the next big question about Windows 95 is: should
I buy it now?
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #301 August 1, 1995 High Tech Office column
almost see the
ever-boyish grin of Bill Gates, now officially the richest
person in the world, shouting: "Ready or not... here I come."
After more than two years of testing, the several-times-delayed Windows
95 has gone to Microsoft's manufacturing department in order
to get millions of packages of the approximately $100 software product
into stores in time for the August 24 official release date.
US$85-million advertising budget, you can bet that there will be a
lot of pressure to run right out and buy.
that pressure? What do you stand to gain by upgrading to Windows 95?
What will the real costs be?
95 since last fall, watching the product evolve. Initially, I had
a long list of hardware and software problems, but by late spring,
all my concerns had been dealt with: the last versions of Windows
95 have worked as advertised (with one exception, as we'll see).
switch to Windows
95, here's what you'll get:
* A much
The start button and taskbar, in particular, are easier to use than
the old program manager, and solve many of the problems that new users
have when they try to run multiple programs. While there is a learning
curve involved in switching from old Windows, it is a short one, aided
by built-in tutorial features. And if you prefer, you can choose to
use the old program manager interface.
* Plug and
new Windows comes with support for a large number of printers,
sound, CD-ROM and other hardware. It is a much easier task to add
new hardware, or even old hardware designed prior to the new Plug
and Play standards.
Win 95 provides better support for DOS programs and for multitasking
new Windows software. While it doesn't entirely eliminate the use
of system resources, which often limited the number of programs a
Windows 3.1 user could run at once, it does a much better job of
them, so you'll get faster video, CD-ROM, and printing.
Macintosh users can attest, calling a file "Third-quarter budget
is much handier than being forced to live with "3qbudest.doc." Windows
95 out-Macs the Mac, allowing 256 character filenames (compared to
the Mac's 32 letters). Win 95 users will quickly discover, however,
that their old software will still only use the old eight-character
DOS filenames: you need new, Windows 95-aware software to use this
are lots of
other features--built-in networking, with good support for your
Netware networks. Internet access. A "recycle bin" for easy access
to deleted files. And more. (Yes, Macintosh and OS/2 users can point
out that most of these features have been available in their respective
systems for some time now: that doesn't matter, as the market has
shown that most computer users don't consider either as a real option.)
other hand, businesses
supporting a large number of PCs should take a deep breath before
placing their orders. Consider:
Microsoft would like
us to believe that Windows 95 is an ideal upgrade for anyone with
a 386 or better with at least four megs of RAM. I've installed it
on several machines with four megs of RAM, and found that while it
would run on those machines, performance was significantly poorer
than with Windows 3.1. I'd recommend at least eight megs before
As well, you'll need at least 60 megs of free hard-drive space before
starting the install.
leaves out a large
number of machines currently used by businesses. Some estimates suggest
that 39 per cent of the 200 million or so PCs in use worldwide can
efficiently run Windows 95, while the majority cannot. Are the current
benefits of Windows 95 worth the cost of upgrading or replacing the
and long-filename support will be most useful with software upgraded
for Windows 95. While Windows 95 will work fine with your current
software (except for disk utilities, backup programs, and the like)
and will improve resource-handling, it isn't designed to recognize
long filenames for those programs.
are hard at work getting their next-generation products ready--many
will be made available along with Windows 95's August release, with
most others coming out within the next few months. But are users ready
to pay to upgrade the bulk of their business applications, particularly
when the benefits (aside from long filenames) are not yet clear?
and uncertainty surrounding any major change, and this one is no
Many users suspect that, like other big software releases with numbers
ending in "0," Windows 95.0 will be buggy: they think that they'll
be better off waiting for version 95.1. Undoubtedly, Windows 95 won't
be perfect, and there will be bug-fixes over the next few months,
but the product seems remarkably stable for such a large project.
Windows 95 is an interim product--that Microsoft would really like
us all to be using Windows NT at some point in the next couple of
years when we're more likely to have computers with more than 16 megs
of RAM, and no more need to run old DOS programs. They may be right,
but for now, with the current hardware and software mix, Windows 95
will have a big market.
So what's a
to do? I would recommend waiting. You'll be using Windows 95 soon
anyway--any new machines will almost certainly come with it already
installed. But I wouldn't rush into upgrading existing machines unless
there's a compelling business application that requires it. But don't
be too surprised if that day comes sooner, rather than later.