One of the great things about this time and age is the variety of products available to us as consumers.  From the perspective of Operating Systems, or OS’s, the spolight has been pointed at Microsoft and Windows for the longest time.  Though the majority of computer users still use some form of Windows, the evolution of the competition has allowed for two powerful competitors to get some major attention: OSX and Ubuntu Linux.  Click to read more…

Let’s start out with Apple’s offering.  OSX has done some great things that can be seen reflected in their growing market share and duplicated functionality in Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows 7.  Its focus is on ease of use throughout the whole system.  Whether you are installing a program, connecting to a network, installing a printer, or browsing the web, OSX tries to keep as much of the technical muck underneath so that the user never has to deal with it (like they often do with Windows).  Its simplicity of use is best exemplified by the long-running stint of using single button mouses and click pads.  It’s almost as if Apple is saying “Why use a two button mouse on that system when you can do the same stuff on ours with just one?”

Though I am not a frequent user of OSX, I have spent some time on a Mac before and I can see what the appeal is to many people.  Coming from a PC upbringing, finding your way around a Mac takes some initial “unlearning.”  What makes sense on Windows is completely backwards to a Machead.  Apple products focus on user intuition because it makes the most sense for someone who has had little prior experience using a computer.

Apple also provides some extremely nice looking aesthetics to their system with the flashy looking toolbar, window animations, and 3D icons (Windows Vista has some awfully similar looking features).  They have a style and class that has claimed the attention of many consumers and turned them into extremely loyal fans.  Some could liken it to a cult where the word of Steve Jobs is the gospel.  Either way, it’s impossible to ignore the effect that Apple is having on the market and the growing popularity of their products.

The second major Windows competitor is just one of a hundred or so different flavors of an operating system called Linux.  For a long time, Linux was an OS for real tech junkies.  These are people who still love the command line (because they can do things a lot faster without a mouse), love developing software to share with others for free, and actively seek to weaken Microsoft’s hold on computer software.  With the rise of Ubuntu, everything changed.

When I mentioned that there are over a hundred different versions (or “flavors”) of Linux, I wasn’t joking.  Check out this list on Wikipedia.  The thing about all of these different distributions is they all have their roots with the original version created by Linus Torvalds.  He had some deep philosophies about what an operating system should do  and should be for its users.  With those beliefs he gathered a large following of software developers who shared his ideals.  That group has continued to grow and spread as it evolved into open source projects headed by Sourceforge that now creates freely available software for everyone that isn’t strictly limited to just operating systems.

Linux really hit the limelight when it was first included as an option to be pre-installed when you bought a new Dell computer.  The flavor that was chosen was Ubuntu because it was very graphical (like Windows and OSX) as well as much easier to use than traditional versions of Linux.  You didn’t have to compile source code into running binaries, you just had to download the installer and the operating system did the rest.  The ease of use was enough to bring it into the mainstream, and the cost savings delivered to the consumer (because Linux is usually free or very cheap when licensed) made it very appealing.

Today, we see Linux on a lot of systems beyond just standard computers.  Linux is on almost all netbooks sold, is the basis for OSX (that’s right, Apple made their own version of Linux), and is the guts of Google’s mobile OS: Android.  Someday, it is very likely that Linux might become as popular as OSX and Windows because it will be cheaper, just as capable, and just as easy to use as the other systems.  Only time will tell.

In addition to providing consumers with more choices for what to run on their computers, by stepping up as legitimate alternatives to Microsoft’s dominating OS, these other systems have helped push Microsoft to improve it’s products and keep up with the innovations introduced by its competitors.  It’s just like when the iPhone first came out.  Tons of people flocked to AT&T to get their hands on Apple’s creation.  When the rest of the phone manufacturers saw the success of the product they changed gears on their strategies and immediately started creating similar functioning and styled devices themselves.  Competition in the marketplace helps consumers get better products because they flock toward whatever is the most impressive technologies, and that forces everyone else to keep up or go obsolete.  Let’s hope the fight between these three operating systems continues to generate great benefits for all computer users.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 31st, 2009 at 4:21 pm and is filed under Basic Computer Use, Development, Software Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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