Soft Windows 95 brings cultures closer together

Personal Computers

April 15, 1996|By PETER H. LEWIS

THE HUMAN RACE HAS functioned fairly well for thousands of years despite a large number of operating system incompatibilities. There are different standards for sex, language, race, religion, politics and personal computers.

With its new program Soft Windows 95 for Power Macintosh, Insignia Solutions Inc. has done little to resolve the battle of the sexes or the 1996 election, but it has succeeded fairly well in forging a closer relationship between the Macintosh and Windows cultures.

Soft Windows 95, with an estimated retail price of $350, effectively converts a fast Macintosh into a slow 486-based PC that is capable of using Windows software.

Normally, most Macintosh users would not view this as a particularly desirable achievement, and Macintosh supremacists might view it as an affront. However, the growing reality is that many Macintosh owners live in environments where Windows users are the majority, particularly in offices. The ability to run Windows programs on a Mac can foster closer communications, bridge cultural differences and thus make the world a better place.

Other Macintosh owners have reported envy when they see colleagues sneak in a game of Windows solitaire on the laptop at a business meeting. Windows definitely has more cool games than the Mac.

And finally, there are some Macintosh owners who fear that Apple may stop making Macs and cede the market to Windows.

In any event, some Mac users need to use Windows programs from time to time. The obvious solution, buying a separate PC, has the disadvantages of costing a lot, taking up lots of valuable desk space and betraying the "Apple Forever" cause.

There are other solutions. This month, Apple is expected to introduce two new plug-in cards for Power Macintoshes that will allow them to use either Mac or Windows software. One contains an actual 486-level microprocessor and the other a Pentium chip. Apple declined to comment, but the cards are expected to cost $700 to $1,000.

Similar Pentium-based plug-in cards are also expected in the near future from the Reply Corp. of San Jose, Calif., and Orange Micro Inc. of Anaheim, Calif., two companies that have made DOS-compatibility cards for earlier Macintoshes. Or, one can wait until the end of the year for a new Macintosh desktop system that will, in theory, run any operating system.

But for now, Soft Windows 95 is the least expensive and most practical solution, with a few big asterisks.

* It requires a Power PC microprocessor.

* It requires at least 16 megabytes of vacant system memory, and 24 megabytes are recommended.

* The software commandeers 130 megabytes of hard disk space.

* It requires a CD-ROM drive.

These are not trivial requirements, and it is unclear how many Macintosh owners have such resources. Only one of the three Macs in my office was brawny enough for the challenge, a Power Macintosh 7100/80 with 40 megabytes of RAM and a gigabyte of hard disk space.

Pub Date: 4/15/96

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