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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Age Of The Operating System

(Via Extremetech) A few years ago, the usual mantra for choosing a PC was simple: Users ran applications; most applications ran on Microsoft Windows. But any empire or monopoly eventually becomes a target for competition. While Microsoft may view its raft of up-and-coming competitors as barbarians at the gates,the added competition presages a time when operating systems will be both more and less relevant than ever.With Windows 95 came out, it looked like Microsoft had completely taken over the market. Apple had become a nearly invisible blip on the market and Microsoft's lead in applications volume seemed insurmountable. Microsoft Windows was also referred to as an "essential utility"once. Microsoft still holds the lion's share of the operating system market, but today's technology landscape is more diverse. Holding an operating system monopoly is less relevant than it might have been in the past. Conventional wisdom has always held that the OS with the most applications will attract users. Yet as Linux continues to evolve and Apple becomes the leading OS innovator, a shift appears imminent. A good many home users could happily live with Linux or a Macintosh and never really miss Windows. Microsoft has made valiant efforts to get into embedded products - wiith mixed degrees of success. There are variants of Microsoft's operating systems inside set-top boxes, PDAs, and smart phones. But it is often the minority player in those fiercely competitive market segments. As home devices become more PC-like internally, they now require more care and feeding than similar devices did in the past. Many home device players require updates to their firmware - essentially embedded operating systems. If the tech world were as vertically divided as it was in the minicomputer era, we wouldn't have the rich variety of applications and hardware we do. For this, you can blame (or praise) Microsoft. When the industry started down the path of "IBM-PC" compatibility back in the eighties, Redmond led the charge. Today's world is a natural extension of that trend. So Microsoft is as responsible for the "barbarians at the gates" as anyone else.
My Take :If Apple were to build a version of their OS that would run on Intel hardware – it could be quite exciting posing further more challenge to Microsoft. Linux has real advantages in embedded systems. Linux is far less complex than Windows. The one thing that has made Linux and Firefox grow, is the thing that may hurt them eventually is - open source. Marketing, innovation and investments for making significant improvements would handicap these. Extending Linux’s increasing usage in embedded systems automatically into desktops may be a little far too fetched.

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