The Future Is the Operating System

cktThe future of computing centers on the operating system. So does its past. That is the message of an interesting article featured on Gizmodo today.

The operating system of a computing device is the software that helps the device support the applications that run on it. The most popular operating systems are Windows, Linux / Unix, OSX, iOS, ChromeOS, and Android. Some of these operating systems, like Windows, Linux, and OSX, run primarily on traditional computers, while others run on phones and tablets. All operating systems manage memory, communications, disk usage, power consumption, audio and video, communication with peripherals such as printers and bluetooth headsets, input devices, and the behavior of concurrently running applications. The operating system is centrally important to creating a pleasant and productive user experience for the user, so much so that users often choose their computing devices based on the operating system they run.

Today’s tech giants have adopted markedly different strategies in developing their product lines and services, and their approaches have evolved over time. Save for a few attempts to get into the hardware market, Microsoft has primarily focused on making its Windows operating system the dominant one for personal computers. They have tried, with very limited success, to extend windows to smart phones, and they have seen some promising but muted success in transitioning Windows to a touch-based interface that runs well on slick hardware such as its Surface Pro 3 tablet. The essence of Microsoft’s approach, however, has long been to develop and market its operating system and the applications that run on it.

Recently, however, Microsoft tweaked its strategy in a very intriguing way. They have created a mobile version of Microsoft Office that runs on all the popular mobile operating systems, including Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, the operating systems created by Microsoft’s fiercest competitors. I see this as a sign that Microsoft has rediscovered its roots as a software company, while at the same time acknowledging that it might not be able or well-advised to push its Windows operating system onto others’ hardware. In other words, they have refocused their investment in software development, but shifted that focus to developing applications rather than the operating system. Even the much ballyhooed upcoming release of Windows 10 suggests this shift in focus to the application. Microsoft is touting Windows 10 as the “last version of Windows“, because Windows 10 is meant to run as a service, which means that its numerous components will be independently upgradeable, just like an individual software application would be. In other words, its operating system seems to be evolving more into a suite of applications.

So, if Microsoft is now primarily a software application company, what are Google and Apple these days? Apple is very clearly a hardware company. Apple wants you to buy its devices, and its future depends on consumers doing just that. They limit their operating systems to run on their devices, because they make tons of money on their hardware. OSX will run only on an Apple-made Mac; iOS will run only on an Apple-made iPad or iPhone. There are no other device manufacturers who can run an Apple-made operating system. This is by design. Apple’s lifeblood is its hardware, and they are not about to give anyone a reason to buy someone else’s devices by offering its operating systems on other platforms.

And then there is Google. Whereas Microsoft is now a software applications company, and Apple is a hardware company, Google has become the operating system company. Google’s Android and ChromeOS operating systems were designed to run on lots of different devices, including devices that don’t even interact with humans but instead communicate with other devices as part of networks. Because of this focus on the operating system, Google is wiring itself quite smartly into the Internet of Things, an exciting tech direction that seeks to create a network of autonomous devices to respond to their owners’ needs and to their environment. Google doesn’t care about the kind of device or who makes it. They just want their operating system to run on it. Because Google’s operating systems depend so strongly on the network rather than the device, they enable lots of intriguing opportunities to tie diverse data sources together to generate rich, actionable information. That results in opportunities to make all sorts of processes more feature-rich, responsive, and efficient, even those that have not traditionally been considered computer-centric processes.  For example, driverless cars will depend on networks of roadside sensors. Google’s hardware agnosticism has positioned it extremely well to power that kind of application. Apple’s device focus would mean all roadways would have to be iRoadways, which is very unlikely to happen.

Who will win out? I find Apple’s focus on hardware to be short-sighted. Non-traditional computing devices will quickly outnumber traditional, consumer-focused ones, including desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets. If Apple continues to focus on the device, they might win the hearts and money of consumers for a while, but they will completely whiff on the big-ticket embedded computer opportunities smart appliances and infrastructure upgrades will offer. Google’s operating systems, meanwhile, will easily enable all sorts of networked computing applications to happen. And Microsoft’s applications, able to run on all consumer devices, will give them a valuable presence on all platforms, even Apple’s. Despite its long track record of innovation and resilience, I don’t believe Apple’s hardware focus is the right one for the road ahead. In today’s extremely heterogeneous computing environment, it’s all about the operating system, and Google appears to have that covered.

About Ray Klump

Professor and chair of Mathematics and Computer Science Director, Master of Science in Information Security Lewis University http://online.lewisu.edu/ms-information-security.asp, http://online.lewisu.edu/resource/engineering-technology/articles.asp, http://cs.lewisu.edu. You can find him on Google+.

13 thoughts on “The Future Is the Operating System

  1. January 2, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Operating system’s reliable compatibility with the hardware of a computer can make a system beast in performance boosting.

  2. December 30, 2018 at 6:58 am

    That’s a really nice blog about how technology is going to reign in future

  3. December 7, 2018 at 12:30 am

    he future of computing centers on the operating system. Save for a few attempts to get into the hardware market, Microsoft has primarily focused on making its Windows operating system the dominant one for personal computers.

  4. December 6, 2018 at 2:15 am

    I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Google. You ave made my day! Thank you again

  5. October 19, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    The operating system of a computing device is the software that helps the device support the applications that run on it. The most popular operating systems are Windows, Linux / Unix, OSX, iOS, ChromeOS, and Android.

  6. September 21, 2018 at 7:08 am

    This is very interesting as we are now growing as the time goes by with our computer age. Love to know the fact that we are now enjoying the operating system of a computing device. Those devices that support the applications is really massive!

  7. September 4, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Android seems to have a far wider future and is going to play in the long run. The reasons is that it’s more user-friendly than the other operating system like OS and windows. This idea can be reconfirmed from the fact that in the last 6 months around 6 local mobile and computer producing companies done contract with Android for using their service as an operating system

  8. August 23, 2018 at 5:57 am

    Great post. This is the basis of the fundamental of the operating system which can be handled easily.
    They are windows, Linux etc. This is the future.

  9. August 21, 2018 at 3:54 am

    Now that’s a new one. Didn’t know that there was a system like Freespire or PD-BSD. First one reminds me of good ol’ Windows a little. Nice post, useful info as usual on this site.

  10. August 21, 2018 at 2:47 am

    I went through this post and I enjoyed a lot to read this blog. The future of computing centers on the operating system. So does it’s past. That is the message of an interesting article featured on Gizmodo today. The operating system of a computing device is the software that helps the device support the applications that run on it. keep sharing such type of information.

  11. August 13, 2018 at 12:43 am

    Windows has many files in their system and each file has its own code and working feature, if we delete this file, there is a chance to crash of window so we need to never delete windows file.

  12. July 20, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    The operating system is used to make the relation between hardware and software. Various kinds of OS are there. They are windows, Linux etc. Linux operating system is open source and faster than windows.

  13. June 19, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    The Operating System is the fundamental of a computer system and hence, is of huge importance and should always be handled with real care. The future of the computer is all about Operating System.

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