The gap between the desktop operating systems available is growing ever closer, with Microsoft and Apple aiming to provide an operating system that is not only secure and works with the relevant devices, but also is also easy to use as greater emphasis is put on the GUI design and usability. There are also a number of desktop Linux distributions available for users who wish to tap into the pool of open-source solutions that can assist them with saving money as well as breathing new life into what could otherwise be redundant devices. Although Apple’s OSX operating system only functions with the company’s own computers, it is still an important contender as sales of Macs are always growing and the close ties that OSX Mountain Lion has with its iOS platform put it on par with Windows 8 and it’s Metro interface.
Microsoft Windows 8
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s new iteration of its ever-popular operating system, citing close ties to the new Metro interface that has been introduced with the company’s latest smartphone OS. Windows has been the most popular operating system available for many years primarily because of its compatibility with most computers as it covers those using both AMD and Intel processors; for this reason, it is likely to be the most natural upgrade path for users currently using Windows 7 or older products.
A lot of attention has been paid to Windows 8’s support for ARM processors, on top of the classic support offered to AMD and Intel x86-based processors; ARM processors are the most popular choice for tablet computer manufacturers, primarily because their power consumption can easily be kept to a minimum without impacting o the performance of the device. Microsoft has failed badly with the tablet industry as it is missed out on getting its OS onto the devices because of a lack of support, however Windows 8 is set to change this. The popular Metro interface introduced along with the last Windows mobile OS is also coming to Windows 8, guaranteeing that the OS will be one of the best software solutions available for touchscreen devices such as tablets – but don’t worry, the classic Windows desktop interface will also be included for desktop users.
For the average consumer, Windows will be the expected choice of operating system because it accompanies so many products whilst remaining relatively cheap (it’s important to note that the cost of the Windows license is incorporated into the price of devices that include the OS). The security issues that Windows faces may discourage some, but as long as a good anti-virus application is used then this shouldn’t be an issue.
Apple OSX Mountain Lion (10.8)
OSX Mountain Lion is the next version of the popular Apple operating system and is expected to land at the end of the summer. With OSX Lion introducing a number of features that have been popular in the company’s iOS mobile platform, OSX Mountain Lion blurs the lines between desktop OS and mobile OS further. Even though OSX is only compatible with Apple Mac computers officially, this hasn’t stopped it from being the second most popular OS to Windows.
Security is seen as being a big factor with OSX and Apple pushes the boundaries further with Mountain Lion by introducing sandboxing for desktop applications; sandboxing effectively means that applications have to work independent of each other and will require specific permissions to carry out certain tasks – this is being seen as a way of removing the possibility of installing a malicious application or a virus from stealing data. There is also the chance that application distribution is transferred to the Mac App Store completely, allowing Apple to ensure that only authorized and secure applications make it onto Macs.
With OSX resembling iOS more with each release, it is expected sometime soon that the operating systems will merge to offer one unified system across Apple’s Mac range of mobile device range – this should prove to be a popular move, requiring users to learn how to use one interface and system only. This is very similar to what Microsoft has done with Windows 8 by designing an OS that is both desktop- and tablet-friendly. However, the features offered by OSX mean that it is still popular with graphic designers and web developers; furthermore, the virus-free reputation that comes with it is translated the number of users choosing OSX over Windows.
For the more experienced user who is more interested in tinkering with the operating system on their computer, then an open-source Linux distribution is likely to be desired – for this example we will use Ubuntu, seen as being the most popular and easy to use Linux distribution aimed at desktop users.
The term ‘open-source’ means that you can access and alter the source-code of an application, allowing you to add your own functionality or improve the performance of the software; this is what makes Linux and the related applications a popular choice with developers and software enthusiasts.
You should remember that there are other desktop Linux distributions available, with many being designed for a specific purpose – this will allow you to choose an OS that is based around what you wish to use it for, as well as the specifications of the machine that you are using.
If you aren’t fussed about the OS that you are using then you are more than likely to purchase a computer that is running Windows. However, for enthusiasts then OSX and Apple products in general may be the preferred choice, especially for developers and designers. If you are an experienced user and have experience with Linux servers for example, then you may choose Ubuntu or another Linux distribution so that you can modify the functionality of the OS as you want.
Many businesses prefer to choose Windows because of the integration that can be offered across an organization, along with the support for a large number of enterprise applications. Furthermore, Windows computers are usually cheap enough to allow for the deployment of many machines without the need for a large outlay.