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Microsoft to Unveil Product With a Splash : Computers: The company rents a yacht and hires Dave Brubeck to introduce a new version of the world’s mostly widely used software.

From Associated Press

Microsoft Corp. has rented a yacht and hired the Dave Brubeck quartet to announce a new version of the world’s most widely used computer software.

Microsoft says the rollout Tuesday will be the biggest launch of a new software product in computer industry history.

The new product is an update of MS-DOS, the base layer of software used on an estimated 60 million IBM-type personal computers worldwide. It provides enhanced features compared to older versions of DOS, including more available memory and a new “help” feature.

The new DOS also moves the software closer in appearance and features to Windows, a Microsoft product that makes IBM-type computers easier to use. Windows has been a runaway success since Microsoft introduced an improved version a year ago.

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DOS is a type of software called an operating system, which controls a computer’s internal functions. On top of it a computer user runs application programs such as spreadsheets and word-processing programs.

To emphasize the importance Microsoft places on the new product, called DOS 5, Microsoft Chairman William H. Gates III has rented the dinner-cruise yacht New Yorker for a news conference in the Hudson River. Dining and dancing to the music of Dave Brubeck is included.

An extensive advertising and marketing campaign will follow.

Microsoft, the largest software maker, hopes its splashy launch of DOS 5 will help it overcome the disappointing sales of the last major DOS update. DOS 4, announced three years ago, failed to take off--partly because it was riddled with bugs--and most owners of IBM-type computers continue to use earlier DOS versions.

To avoid similar quality problems with DOS 5, Microsoft conducted what it called the most extensive testing program in PC software history. About 7,000 computer users were given advance copies to find bugs and make suggestions for improvements.

“We learned from our mistakes,” said Brad Chase, the DOS 5 product manager.

Another problem with DOS 4 was that it actually took up more computer memory space than previous versions. DOS 5 gives computer users more memory than all earlier DOS versions so programs run better.

Microsoft says it will make DOS 5 available to personal computer makers and, for the first time in a DOS upgrade, directly to existing PC owners. Previous DOS upgrades were available to PC owners only through the computer makers themselves.

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Microsoft says it will sell a $99.95 kit to upgrade earlier versions of DOS to DOS 5 through about 7,000 computer stores. In addition, 130 PC makers worldwide have licensed DOS 5 for use in new computers.

Industry analyst Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley & Co. said she believed that DOS 5 would be a hit.

“I think it’s an important upgrade. Microsoft is going to market it aggressively,” she said. “The feedback (from testers) has been very strong.”

She said Microsoft could sell about 8 million upgrade kits for DOS 5. She estimated that it would make about $30 profit on each, or a total of $240 million.

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Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., earned $279.2 million on revenue of $1.18 billion in the fiscal year ended June 30, 1990.


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