Operating System Battle

There’s been an interesting competition going on for a long time between two heavy hitters in the electronics world, Apple and Microsoft. This isn’t so much about hardware as it is about the conceptual nature of the underlying operating system (OS) framework.

When smart mobile devices like phones and tablets entered the market a few years ago, they used more and more data (not just voice) that required a different kind of OS, especially to implement “touch” on small screens. As the popularity of these mobile devices skyrocketed, the question soon became how to create an integrated experience across the computing/communicating spectrum. One of the questions was whether to add “touch” to laptop screens; Apple’s position was a resounding “no,” while Microsoft said “yes,” and moved quickly in the direction of morphing Windows into a platform that included “touch” on many laptops. While the transition for Microsoft has been rocky (and is far from being complete), a lot of users like the experience of touch-screens on laptops, and the latest updates to Windows 8.1 have mitigated many of the earlier complaints from dedicated desktop users.

At Apple’s annual World Wide Developer’s Conference this week one of the catchwords was “Continuity.” While the next iterations of OS X and iOS will definitely remain separate entities, the appearance of OS X will become much more like iOS, and strong emphasis will be placed on a smooth, integrated experience for customers across all devices, mobile or otherwise. This will likely be very attractive to many, and while not breaking from the prior edict of “no touch on laptop screens,” it certainly is a move in the direction of cooperative, if not integrated, operating systems. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

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