What About Windows 95?

OS/2 is often compared to Windows 95, and it does seem that these OSes are each others' main competitors in the desktop marketplace. It should first be noted that OS/2 can not use Windows 95 to run Windows programs, and probably never will; OS/2 "for Windows" relies upon very specific things about Windows 3.1 to be able to use it for running Windows programs, and these things have changed with Windows 95. The current release of OS/2 will only run those Windows 95 programs which will run under Windows 3.1 with the Win32s extensions, and OS/2's Win32s subsystem doesn't run 100% of all Win32s applications. Note, however, that many of the programs being marketed today as "for Windows 95" fall into this category, and OS/2 will run most of them. If in doubt, check the box's requirements carefully to see if the program will run under Windows 3.1, or post to an appropriate OS/2 newsgroup.

In terms of features, abilities, and system requirements, Windows 95 is very similar to OS/2 in many ways. RAM requirements, pre-emptive multitasking, an object-oriented "desktop" environment [though Windows 95's is object-oriented in only a "skin-deep" sort of way], and other features exist in both OSes. Here, then, are some of the major differences:

I've seen a number of comparisons in the computer press between OS/2 and Windows 95. Unfortunately, many of them use subtly (or not-so-subtly) biased measures, such as using Win32 disk benchmark programs (generally using FAT for both OSes) or comparing video speed based upon OS/2's seamless video modes (see above). Most, but not all, such comparisons also utilize only single-tasking performance. When reading such comparisons, read them very carefully, and take them with a rather substantial grain of salt.

There have been many reports of OS/2 and Windows 95 coexisting on the same machine, much as OS/2 and DOS can. You can therefore get "the best of both worlds," if you don't mind the expense and time investment this would entail. Such a setup requires the use of Boot Manager or a third-party boot utility like the shareware Advanced Boot Manager or the commercial System Commander rather than Dual Boot. IBM maintains a document called Just Add OS/2 Warp which covers installing OS/2 on a system with Win95.

Copyright © 1996, Rod Smith, rodsmith@rodsbooks.com
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