MS-DOS - Competition

Competition

On microcomputers based on the Intel 8086 and 8088 processors, including the IBM PC and clones, the initial competition to the PC DOS/MS-DOS line came from Digital Research, whose CP/M operating system had inspired MS-DOS. In fact, there remains controversy as to whether Q-DOS was more or less plagiarised from early versions of CP/M code. Digital Research released CP/M-86 a few months after MS-DOS, and it was offered as an alternative to MS-DOS and Microsoft's licensing requirements, but at a higher price. Executable programs for CP/M-86 and MS-DOS were not interchangeable with each other; much applications software was sold in both MS-DOS and CP/M-86 versions until MS-DOS became preponderant (later Digital Research operating systems could run both MS-DOS and CP/M-86 software). MS-DOS originally supported the simple .COM, which was modelled after a similar but binary incompatible format known from CP/M-80. CP/M-86 instead supported a relocatable format using the file extension .CMD to avoid name conflicts with CP/M-80 and MS-DOS .COM files. MS-DOS version 2.0 added a more advanced relocatable .EXE executable file format.

Most of the machines in the early days of MS-DOS had differing system architectures and there was a certain degree of incompatibility, and subsequently vendor lock-in. Users who began using MS-DOS with their machines were compelled to continue using the version customized for their hardware, or face trying to get all of their proprietary hardware and software to work with the new system.

In the business world the 808x-based machines that MS-DOS was tied to faced competition from the Unix operating system which ran on many different hardware architectures. Microsoft itself sold a version of Unix for the PC called Xenix.

In the emerging world of home users, a variety of other computers based on various other processors were in serious competition with the IBM PC: the Apple II, early Apple Macintosh, the Commodore 64 and others did not use the 808x processor; many 808x machines of different architectures used custom versions of MS-DOS. At first all these machines were in competition. In time the IBM PC hardware configuration became dominant in the 808x market as software written to communicate directly with the PC hardware without using standard operating system calls ran much faster, but on true PC-compatibles only. Non-PC-compatible 808x machines were too small a market to have fast software written for them alone, and the market remained open only for IBM PCs and machines that closely imitated their architecture, all running either a single version of MS-DOS compatible only with PCs, or the equivalent IBM PC DOS. Most clones cost much less than IBM-branded machines of similar performance, and became widely used by home users, while IBM PCs had a large share of the business computer market.

Microsoft and IBM together began what was intended as the follow-on to MS-DOS/PC DOS, called OS/2. When OS/2 was released in 1987, Microsoft began an advertising campaign announcing that "DOS is Dead" and stating that version 4 was the last full release. OS/2 was designed for efficient multi-tasking — an IBM speciality derived from deep experience with mainframe operating systems — and offered a number of advanced features that had been designed together with similar look and feel; it was seen as the legitimate heir to the "kludgy" DOS platform.

MS-DOS had grown in spurts, with many significant features being taken or duplicated from Microsoft's other products and operating systems. MS-DOS also grew by incorporating, by direct licensing or feature duplicating, the functionality of tools and utilities developed by independent companies, such as Norton Utilities, PC Tools (Microsoft Anti-Virus), QEMM expanded memory manager, Stacker disk compression, and others.

During the period when Digital Research was competing in the operating system market some computers, like Amstrad PC1512, were sold with floppy disks for two operating systems (only one of which could be used at a time), MS-DOS and CP/M-86 or a derivative of it. Digital Research produced DOS Plus, which was compatible with MS-DOS 2.11, supported CP/M-86 programs, had additional features including multi-tasking, and could read and write disks in CP/M and MS-DOS format.

While OS/2 was under protracted development, Digital Research released the MS-DOS compatible DR DOS 5.0, which included features only available as third-party add-ons for MS-DOS. Unwilling to lose any portion of the market, Microsoft responded by announcing the "pending" release of MS-DOS 5.0 in May 1990. This effectively killed most DR DOS sales until the actual release of MS-DOS 5.0 in June 1991. Digital Research brought out DR DOS 6.0, which sold well until the "pre-announcement" of MS-DOS 6.0 again stifled the sales of DR DOS.

Microsoft had been accused of carefully orchestrating leaks about future versions of MS-DOS in an attempt to create what in the industry is called FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) regarding DR DOS. For example, in October 1990, shortly after the release of DR DOS 5.0, and long before the eventual June 1991 release of MS-DOS 5.0, stories on feature enhancements in MS-DOS started to appear in InfoWorld and PC Week. Brad Silverberg, Vice President of Systems Software at Microsoft and General Manager of its Windows and MS-DOS Business Unit, wrote a forceful letter to PC Week (November 5, 1990), denying that Microsoft was engaged in FUD tactics ("to serve our customers better, we decided to be more forthcoming about version 5.0") and denying that Microsoft copied features from DR DOS:

"The feature enhancements of MS-DOS version 5.0 were decided and development was begun long before we heard about DR DOS 5.0. There will be some similar features. With 50 million MS-DOS users, it shouldn't be surprising that DRI has heard some of the same requests from customers that we have." – (Schulman et al. 1994).

The pact between Microsoft and IBM to promote OS/2 began to fall apart in 1990 when Windows 3.0 became a marketplace success. Much of Microsoft's further contributions to OS/2 also went into creating a third GUI replacement for DOS, Windows NT.

IBM, which had already been developing the next version of OS/2, carried on development of the platform without Microsoft and sold it as the alternative to DOS and Windows.

Read more about this topic:  MS-DOS

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