Bugs Reported in New Version of Microsoft DOS : Technology: But the giant software company criticizes test methods used in a trade journal's study.


Microsoft Corp.'s latest version of its industry-standard MS-DOS software is flying off store shelves, but the sales success is being marred by reports of problems with the program.

Microsoft says DOS 6, as the new product is known, has sold more then 3 million copies to date, a record for any software program in so short a time and double the original forecast.

DOS is a program that controls the basic functions of most personal computers, and DOS 6 improves on early versions with a number of new features, such as data compression, which were available previously only as add-on utilities purchased separately from other vendors.

Although many computer users say they're more than happy with DOS 6, others say the program--and especially the data compression feature--can result in lost or damaged computer files. The respected trade newspaper Infoworld reported this week that extensive testing had shown that DOS 6 did in fact contain significant bugs.

Brad Chase, Microsoft's product manager for DOS 6, vehemently denies that there are any significant problems with the software. He called the Infoworld report "very unfortunate and not true."

According to Chase, Infoworld's testing procedures were flawed, and the alleged problems they uncovered had nothing to do with DOS 6. He offered a point-by-point technical explanation of how Infoworld's tests had led to allegedly false conclusions about the soundness of DOS 6.

The head of Infoworld's testing laboratory did not return calls seeking comment.

Complaints about DOS 6 that have been appearing on computer bulletin boards, Chase added, simply reflected the start-up problems that will always be experienced by a small proportion of the users who install a major new software product.

"Our customer satisfaction rate is 90%, ranking among the top products in the industry," Chase said.

Some of the reported problems with DOS 6 appear to stem from difficulties that are frequently encountered with data compression and a data management feature known as "caching," rather then any bugs in the operating system.

Pat Kennedy, marketing manager for Norton Utilities, a program designed to repair data loss, said he had not seen any special problems with DOS 6. "I wouldn't say there are any more problems with DOS 6 than with other compression technologies," he said.

Jim Louderback, director of the testing laboratory at PC Week, a competitor to Infoworld, said extensive tests of DOS 6 had not uncovered the types of problems reported by Infoworld. He called DOS 6 "a great product," but recommended that inexperienced users in particular proceed with caution in using some of the new features.

Specifically, he said the disk compression should not be used unless files are backed up first and the latest version of Norton Utilities is on hand to address any problems. In addition, when using the memory management feature, users should select the default setting and not opt for maximum memory.

Even if none of the problems stem from bugs in DOS 6 itself, the reports have already created a major problem for Microsoft, with some potential buyers holding off on purchases.

Pete Anderson, training manager at Scientific Technologies Inc. in Hayward and unofficial computer guru for the company, said DOS 6 at first looked like the perfect solution for the 40 PCs at his company, many of which were running out of disk space.

But now, he said, even though he isn't sure if there really are problems with the program, "we're not going to make any significant purchases in the near future. . . . I'm not willing to experiment with the operating system."

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