By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers
Microsoft got bad news this month. Programmers in Australia said they've developed a way to get Windows programs to run perfectly without the need for Windows itself.
If the claims made by Trumpet Software are accurate, the substitute computer operating system could take sales away from Microsoft, maker of Windows. Perhaps more importantly to many Windows users is the prospect of a new operating system that could run all Windows programs without the bugs and crashes that accompany Microsoft's Windows operating system.
Trumpet Software designed the first effective "Winsock" Internet-connection software a few years before Microsoft was able to do it and has been working on the new operating system, called PetrOS, for five years. Trumpet says the operating system will be released in test form in August.
Very little about PetrOS is known. A press release from Trumpet, available at the company's Web site at http://www.trumpet.com/, gives almost no details on the software itself. Trumpet says PetrOS won't take up much memory and can be upgraded over the Internet. It gives a price range of $20 to $100 without explaining why the cost could range so widely.
A non-Microsoft operating system that could run Windows software better than Windows does would be a huge blow to Microsoft's ego and could erode its share of the operating-system market at a time when millions of PC users have defected to the bullet-proof Linux operating system. Yet PetrOS could also boost Microsoft by keeping corporate users from ditching their Windows software.
The wording of the PetrOS press release suggests that the new operating system has a long way to go before it's ready for sale. Trumpet Software is asking those who test the software to help determine what the operating system will eventually do, a sign that many features are not yet ready for scrutiny.
Programmers use three methods to run software from one operating system within another one.
The first method runs the entire "foreign" operating system as a program within the host operating system, using an emulator. This is usually slow, but works quite well otherwise. Apple Macintosh computers use this method, through a program called VirtualPC, to run Windows and just about all Windows programs. A Windows emulator for Linux called VMWare also uses this technique.
The second method provides emulation for single programs. A popular Windows emulator for Unix and Linux called Wine uses this technique.
The third method scraps the notion of emulation by using better program code for a new operating system that has all the functions and none of the bugs of the old operating system. This is the method used for PetrOS. It apparently contains no Microsoft programming code, running Windows software in a different way than Windows does. But the result, according to those who have tried PetrOS, is perfect emulation of Windows.
Trumpet Software says about 1,000 companies have signed up to be beta testers.