Printer Friendly

GeoDOS: expanding the graphical marketplace.

GeoDOS: EXPANDING THE GRAPHICAL MARKETPLACE What's the scoop on GeoDOS, the Windows-like environment that Berkeley Softworks has been quietly previewing?

Berkeley has created a product that is already beginning to send a ripple of excitement through the industry. In essence, Berkeley's new GeoDOS (formerly code-named OS/90) is a graphical environment that runs on low-end PCs--including XT-class machines--that don't have enough processor power or memory to support Windows 3. That's a segment of the PC market that currently accounts for about 30 million machines, including most laptops, inexpensive clones, and home office machines. It's also a segment that is growing at least as fast as the number of Windows-capable machines. So GeoDOS is automatically important for any developer of graphical products who hopes to target the broadest part of the PC marketplace.

GeoDOS does nifty tricks on these low-end machines, but GeoDOS is also a surprisingly sophisticated environment that IBM seriously considered as the core of its PM Lite product (before backing off under pressure from Microsoft). Berkeley's list of GeoDOS power features suggests just how ambitious the product's design goals are: "true pre-emptive multi-tasking, including multiple threads of execution within a single process; dynamic memory management; event-driven programming; nested, overlapped, arbitrary-shaped windows; device independent graphics; proportionally spaced fonts; and object-oriented programming." And all this in less than 200K of RAM.

Are these guys sniffing glue?

Not surprisingly, there's been enourmous skepticism about Berkeley and GeoDOS. After all, how can a rinky-dink $3 million company accomplish something that Microsoft, with all its talent and resources and seven years of effort, still hasn't achieved?

That's a troubling question, but GeoDOS definitely is a real product from a company that has shown it can write very tight, very fast graphical code. We've installed an alpha copy on a 640K 8Mhz AT clone, and the performance is impressive; there are no obvious shortcomings in the capabilities of the environment or the sample applications that Berkeley has bundled with GeoDOS. We also know that a good many people (including Lotus and several hardware OEMs) have been giving GeoDOS a very close look. So far, we hear that they haven't found any fatal flaws, either.

Okay, but is it realistic to expect that a small company can establish an alternative graphical standard that competes with Windows?

We see at least two scenarios, both of which could make GeoDOS a serious marketplace standard. First, GeoDOS is a cheap way for mass market hardware companies to cash in on the demand for graphical environments without spending money on faster processors or lots of money. GeoDOS really does add value to entry-level PCs: It includes a Macintosh-like desktop, a good graphical DOS shell and file handling system, and a set of bundled applications that handle all the important writing, drawing, communications, and personal data management tasks a user is likely to expect. Once a few hardware OEMs jump on board the GeoDOS bandwagon, we could see an installed base of several million machines within two years. (Berkeley reportedly has cut deals already with Grid, Laser, and Everex; more OEMs are bound to follow.)

But simply getting lots of copies of GeoDos into the marketplace isn't really the important issue for Berkeley, we believe. Windows didn't succeeded because Microsoft pumped out a few million copies; its success occurred ultimately because there were important applications that users wanted that ran only under Windows. We believe something similar will happen with GeoDos: If GeoDos developers write compelling applications that sell on their own merits, users will be happy to endorse GeoDos as a standard. And if GeoDos applications turn out to be mundane, the size of Berkeley's installed base won't matter to anyone.

How does Berkeley plan to work with third-party developers?

At this point, Berkeley isn't eager to talk with more than a few hand-picked development partners, because the company doesn't want (or need) the distractions of a heavy developer support program. It's also not clear how big a role Berkeley wants to play in marketing its own applications, even though that's clearly where the biggest opportunities are. However, Berkeley does seem committed to making run-time versions easily available to developers, either for free or as part of co-promotional deals.

What's the status of GeoDOS development tools?

That's definitely a weak point now. Developers currently have to write applications in assembly code using a $4,500 Sun SparcStation. An extensive set of native C tools should be available early in 1991, and the company will probably host a developer's conference at that time.

What's the GeoDOS schedule look like?

Berkeley is still focused on trying to get all its code written and debugged in time for a fall announcement. Until then, the company is trying to keep a low profile in the press--a strategy that probably won't work any better for GeoDos than it did for Windows 3.

Brian Dougherty, chairman, Berkeley Softworks (GeoWorks), 2150 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, Calif. 94704; 415/644-0883.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Soft-letter
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Brian Dougherty of Berkeley Softworks
Publication:Soft-Letter
Article Type:interview
Date:Jun 22, 1990
Words:822
Previous Article:On the road.
Next Article:A shake-out in presentations?
Topics:


Related Articles
MAKER OF NET SYSTEMS FOR TV PLANS IPO.
JETHAWKS CRUMBLE, CAUGHT IN STORM : L. ELSINORE 5, JETHAWKS 3.
PACIFIC SHARES ARE MARKET-READY.
LINUX SURGE LIFTING TWO AREA FIRMS.
IN BRIEF.
MORGAN SHARES LEAD IN CLASSIC; FAST GREENS PROVE NO IMPEDIMENT.
SIMI VALLEY HIGH PLACES 5TH IN ACADEMIC DECATHLON : SIMI VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL DECATHLON MEDAL WINNERS.
JURORS LED THROUGH RECONSTRUCTION OF OFFICER'S SLAYING.
Insignia forms new division.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters