What is an operating system?
An operating system (OS or OS for Operating System ) is a set of programs that allows a computer to use its resources.
It allows, thanks to numerous operations, to ensure exchanges between the various components of a machine (processor, memory, peripherals). Put simply, it mediates between programs and hardware resources, using drivers to communicate with components.
Appeared with the progress of computing in the 1950s, OSs have been composed in the same way since the 1960s.
The only difference is that today they are infinitely faster and more powerful, and can perform a multitude of operations simultaneously.
Composed of a kernel managing the basic functions (memory, process, files, input / output peripherals), a command interpreter allowing communication with peripherals, and a file system allowing recording and data tree, the OS play several very important roles.
First of all, the OS manage the processor and decide the volume that will be dedicated to a particular program. They are also responsible for managing the RAM of computers, by managing the spaces allocated to each application installed on the machine.
As explained previously, the OS also manage the inputs and outputs of the peripherals, as well as the execution of the applications (each OS manages the applications which are specific to it), the rights and the security, the exploitation and the reading of files, but also the various machine operating indicators.
Today, it’s not just computers that depend on an operating system. Indeed, this is also the case for many devices such as smartphones, tablets or even video game consoles.
The main operating systems
By choosing a computer or a smartphone, we also indirectly choose an operating system. Most often, the latter depends on the brand of the product purchased. But, in the case of computers, it is also possible to buy machines with no OS, in order to install one of your choices.
– PC operating systems
There is a multitude of operating systems for computers, and some are dedicated to particular activities.
We can however consider that 3 operating systems dominate the market, the first being Windows. Developed over 30 years ago by Microsoft, it is the most widely used system in the world.
Preinstalled on more than 90% of machines sold, Windows seems to be omnipresent on the market. The latest Microsoft OS, Windows 10, was released in July 2015, and remains very popular, although highly criticized by users.
Intended for the general public, Windows is not specific to any particular use and is modifiable to a certain extent. It is a relatively accessible operating system, even for beginners.
The second operating system in the “top 3” is Mac OS, Apple’s operating system. Developed for Macintosh (the very first computer marketed by the brand), it has been used on all Apple brand machines ever since.
Its latest version, Mac OS X, is present on all new Apple computers. The great strength of this OS lies in its ergonomics (but also its design, which is not surprising when we know that the Product Design Engineer is one of the highest-paid positions at Apple ) and it seems more intended for professional use.
With Mac OS, everything is designed to be easy to use, clear and readable. However, this ergonomics comes at a price, and the possibilities for customization are very limited, with a very closed OS.
Finally, the third operating system is GNU / Linux. It is free software, which means that its modification, distribution and reproduction are authorized and facilitated. Based on the Linux kernel from 1991, this system requires a minimum of knowledge on the part of the users to be fully exploited.
Even if there are simplified versions of Linux, designed for the general public, they remain less intuitive than what Apple and Microsoft offer. However, by its nature of free software, there are a multitude of Linux distributions, the most well known being Ubuntu and Debian. GNU / Linux remains the most “modifiable” OS of the three presented.
– On smartphones and tablets
With the arrival of smartphones and tablets in the 2000s, new types of OS were created.
Apple’s IOS is one of the two main smartphone OS on the market. Programmed on all of the brand’s smartphones, it keeps the same promises as to its big brother, the Mac OS. Indeed, its main strengths are its ergonomics and ease of use, but once again to the detriment of personalization.
Android, based on the Linux system, offers greater modification options but may seem more complicated and less secure than its competitor at Apple. Installed on a large majority of smartphone brands, it is to date the most used OS in the world ahead of the IOS.
Finally, we find the Windows 10 mobile, the latest operating system for smartphones and tablets from Microsoft. The latter equips all of the brand’s smartphones, and in particular those developed by Nokia, which belongs to Microsoft. However, abandoned by users, this OS is doomed to disappear and has not been updated since October 2017. The smartphone market, therefore, seems to be doomed to a rivalry between Android and IOS.
How to choose your operating system?
As explained previously, each operating system has its own specificities. From a purely professional perspective coupled with ease of use, Apple and it’s Mac OS may represent the best alternative.
On the other hand, for a “general public” machine, versatile and customizable, Microsoft’s Windows seems to be the most suitable. Finally, for those who have more computer skills and who wish to understand or even intervene in the functioning of the computer, it will be necessary to turn to Linux.
Regarding smartphones, only Android and IOS remain. Once again, IOS will be the most suitable for simple use, while having excellent ergonomics. Conversely, if Android may seem more complicated, it is nonetheless more “customizable”.