June 16, 1999The Assumption Killer
|NewDeal Office from NewDeal
Inc. delivers the core functions of a GUI and office suite in 10MB and operates happily in 640K of
RAM. What does that say about the level of bloat we see in other environments and office suites
from Microsoft, Corel, and Lotus? How many features and functions in your office suite do you
actually use? How much money have you and your company spent on features you don't need, and
the RAM , disk space, and CPU horsepower required to keep all those unused functions alive and
available? Does NewDeal Office offer enough functionality to be practical for you, or are key
features missing? And perhaps the biggest question is this: What percentage of today's apps do
you think comprises essential, core functions and what percentage is just plain bloat? |
Discuss it in LangaLetter threads.
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|Fred Langa is a senior consulting editor and columnist for Windows Magazine. Fred's free weekly newsletter is available via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can contact him at email@example.com or via his website at http://www.langa.com.|
We've all been so conditioned by today's bloatware that it somehow seems almost reasonable that we need 128 Mbytes of RAM to make the most of our applications. It seems almost sensible that basic tasks such as word processing, E-mail, and Web browsing need a Pentium III running at near-meltdown speeds to offer reasonable performance. We've come to expect that a high-performance graphical environment requires high-performance hardware.
Well, it ain't so. I've just tested a high-performance graphical environment that drives a stake through the heart of those assumptions. The environment I tested sits on top of some kind of low-level DOS (almost any kind: PC or MS DOS 3+, Datalight DOS, DR DOS, Novell DOS 7, Caldera OpenDOS, OS/2 Warp, or a version of Windows). The environment is fully graphical and to a casual eye looks and acts almost exactly like Windows.
But it's not Windows. It's its own thing: an operating environment and an office suite, all rolled into one. In fact, the full package includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, HTML editor and browser, day planner, contact manager, drawing tools, and so on. But because the environment and the apps emulate Windows' look and feel, the learning curve is essentially zero: Right from the start, you know where things are and how they work.
OK, now for the first assumption-killer: The whole thing sells for as little as $35 a seat in a networked environment, or $70 for a single-user copy. That's right -- you can get a graphical operating environment and office suite, everything, all for an order of magnitude less than just the upgrade price for, say, Microsoft Office 2000.
And here's the second assumption-killer: The whole thing is so tightly coded it requires only 640 Kbytes of RAM and 10 Mbytes of drive space. (It takes 17 Mbytes at installation, but 7 Mbytes of that gets cleaned up after install.)
Think about that for a minute: An entire, Windows-like graphical environment, office suite, and browser in less disk space and a fraction of the RAM of, say, Microsoft Internet Explorer alone or Netscape Communicator alone.
Performance? The suite screams on today's hardware, but has such low resource requirements it can run on almost any Intel-type PC from a 286 (!) on up. (It also runs just fine in a Mac DOS emulator.)
I tried the suite on the oldest machine I could get my hands on -- a 1992-vintage system outfitted with a 100-MHz 486-class clone chip and all of 16 Mbytes of RAM. Everything worked fine and delivered performance that felt about the same as using Windows and Microsoft Office on a midrange Pentium!
The software is an amazing example of tight coding and a careful selection of product features: It doesn't try to do everything, but it does the most important things very well. Rather than a "kitchen sink" approach (with every feature and function any user might every need), it's a collection of the features and functions most users need, most of the time.
OK, it's time to name names: The software is called NewDeal Office, and it's from NewDeal Inc. NewDeal is the successor to GeoWorks (If you've kicked around computing long enough, you'll remember GeoWorks as an early, honorable contender in the GUI wars). In fact, NewDeal was founded in 1996 by Clive Smith, a former vice chairman of the board and senior executive at GeoWorks. Earlier, less-developed versions of the NewDeal Office suite were previously known as GeoWorks Ensemble.
NewDeal Office is aimed at installations with older, slower hardware, but I think it has wider applicability, and also raises wider questions. For example, if the core functions of a GUI and office suite can be delivered in 10 Mbytes and operate happily in 640 Kbytes of RAM, what does that say about the level of bloat we see on other environments and office suites? (It's not just Microsoft's, although it's justly famous for bloatware. Corel's WordPerfect Professional Suite requires 50 Mbytes of disk space for a minimal installation, and Lotus SmartSuite requires 96 Mbytes of disk, for example.) How many features and functions in your office suite do you really use? How much money have you and your company spent on features you don't need, and the RAM, disk space, and CPU horsepower required to keep all those unused functions alive and available? Did you know about NewDeal (or GeoWorks)? Does it offer enough functionality to be practical for you, or are key features missing? And perhaps the biggest question is this: How many of today's apps do you think are essential, core functions, and how many are just plain bloat? Join in!
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