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An operating system (OS) is initially installed into the computer by a boot program. It administers all the other programs in a computer like the applications or application programs. The application programs requests for services from the OS through a defined application program interface (API). Users interact directly with the OS through a user interface like a command line or a graphical user interface (GUI).
An OS is a software program that allows the computer hardware to connect and function with the computer software. Without a computer OS, both the computer and software programs would be useless.
Services Performed by OS
- The operating system identifies which applications should run in what order and how much time should be allowed for each application before giving another application a turn. This happens in a multitasking operating system where multiple programs can be running at the same time.
- It controls the sharing of internal memory among multiple applications.
- It manages input and output to and from attached hardware devices, like hard disks, printers, and dial-up ports.
- It transmits messages to each application or interactive user about the status of operation and any errors that may have occurred.
- It can rid the management of what are called batch jobs, like printing so that the initiating application is freed from this work.
- An operating system can administer how to divide the program so that it runs on more than one processor at a time. This occurs on computers that can provide parallel processing.
All major computer platforms both hardware and software require and sometimes include an operating system. OS must be developed with various characteristics to meet the specific needs of various form factors.
Common Desktop Operating Systems
- Windows is Microsoft’s leading OS, the de facto standard for home and business computers. It was first introduced in 1985 and has been released in many versions since then. It is a GUI-based OS. The user-friendly Windows 95 was largely responsible for the rapid development of personal computing.
- Mac OS is the OS for Apple’s Macintosh line of personal computers and workstations.
- Linux is a Unix-like OS that was developed to offer personal computer users a free or very low-cost alternative. Linux has been known as a very efficient and fast-performing system.
Windows OS has long conquered the market and continue to do so. As of August 2016, Windows OS had a market share of over 85% while Mac OS was at a little over 6% and Linux was just over 2%. Nevertheless, Windows is losing market share from a long-held 90% and higher.
A mobile OS lets smartphones, tablet PCs, and other mobile devices to execute applications and programs. Mobile OS includes Apple iOS, Google Android, BlackBerry OS and Windows 10 Mobile.
An embedded OS is specialized for use in the computers built into larger systems like cars, traffic lights, digital televisions, ATMs, airplane controls, point of sale (POS) terminals, digital cameras, GPS navigation systems, elevators, digital media receivers and smart meters.
Since the OS works as a computer’s fundamental user interface, it crucially affects how you interact with the device. Therefore, many users prefer to use a particular OS. For example, one user may prefer to use a computer with OS X instead of a Windows-based PC. Another user may prefer an Android-based smartphone instead of an iPhone, which runs on the iOS.
When software developers create applications, they must be written and compiled for a specific OS. This is because each OS connects with the hardware differently and has a specific API that the programmer must use. While many popular programs are cross-platform, meaning they have been developed for multiple OSes, some are only available for a single OS. Therefore, when choosing a computer, it is important to make sure the OS supports the programs you want to run.