Operating System Definition and Meaning

An operating system is software that enables a computer to be operated by, among other things, executing programs, managing the input and output devices and, in the best case scenario, offering a user interface that is easy to use.

  • Operating systems not only control PCs, but also mobile phones, smartphones, tablet PCs, etc.
  • Windows from Microsoft is the most widely used operating system for stationary devices and laptops.
  • Other well-known operating systems are: macOS and iOS (Apple), Chrome OS and Android (Google), Linux.

Tasks of an operating system

Defined by abbreviationfinder, operating systems not only control PCs, but also cell phones , smartphones, tablet PCs and navigation systems. The range of functions varies depending on the type of device. Basically, the tasks of an operating system include the management of memory, programs, processes, hardware, files and abstraction.

The operating system hides the actual complexity of the processes: Thanks to the operating system, the user receives an abstract user interface, which enables simple operation of the respective device thanks to a clear and user-friendly display. The development of operating systems always runs parallel to the development of hardware. In parallel to the development of mobile devices such as smartphones or tablet PCs, the corresponding operating systems for mobile devices were created.

Microsoft: Windows and Windows Phone

The Windows operating system from Microsoft is probably the most widely used, at least for stationary devices and laptops. Worldwide, Microsoft’s Windows has a market share of around 75 percent (as of spring 2021) for operating systems with a connection to the Internet. The first Windows version came on the market in 1985 – since then there have been numerous successors. Even if the Windows XP version is already twenty years old, it still has a large fan base. In comparison, the Vista version disappointed customer expectations.

In 2002 Microsoft released a compact operating system for mobile devices such as smartphones or cell phones, Windows Mobile. Today the continuation version is called Windows Phone , which has been available in Germany since 2010. Windows Phone is designed for finger and multi-touch display operation. The predecessor Windows Mobile, on the other hand, was based on the surface of the desktop versions of Windows and relied on operation with the help of input pens. Windows Phone’s market share is not yet comparable to the success that the operating system has achieved for computers. Only a few percent of smartphones are operated with it (status: 02/2021)

Based on Windows Phone, Microsoft presented Windows 8 in October 2012, thus offering a uniform platform for different device classes such as PC, tablet and smartphone for the first time. Windows 10 launched at the end of 2015 and has been on the rise ever since. The reason for this is not least an automated update that replaces Windows 8 with this version.

Apple: macOS and iOS

The Californian hardware and software manufacturer Apple launched Lisa Os, its first operating system, in 1983. Mac OS followed just a year later and was much more popular with users than the previous system. Mac OS X was the name of the successor version that became macOS with an update in 2016. This operating system is considered to be hardly susceptible to viruses and comparatively secure against external attacks. Those who switch from Windows to Mac OS X will first have to get used to new terms and new approaches. For some, the Apple operating system is particularly comfortable and easy to use, for others – especially those who are used to Windows – using macOS is rather complicated and not very comfortable.

In a modified form, macOS – previously Mac OS X – is used under the name iOS on the famous iPhone smartphone and the iPad tablet computer. The iOS operating system (initially called iPhone OS) was introduced in 2007 in connection with the newly released iPhone. The 12th generation of the iPhone, the so-called iPhone 12, is currently on the market (as of spring 2021).

Google: Chrome OS and Android

Internet giant Google has also developed an operating system: Google Chrome OS. This system is based on the Chrome Internet browser of the same name and is open source software. Chrome OS is primarily aimed at the full use of web applications and is designed for use on netbooks that are equipped with flash memory and can be operated without hard drives. Chrome OS was specially developed for web use, as all files and programs are loaded from the web and saved there. Many applications now also work offline and the system also runs Android applications.

With Android, the operating system for mobile devices, Google has landed a real highlight: Android has been the best-selling operating system for smartphones since 2010 and has a market share of around 70 percent in 2021. A big plus point is that numerous manufacturers use the open software, for example HTC and Samsung. Android can use and change them as they wish: HTC gave the operating system its own interface called Sense. Garmin and Asus, on the other hand, have produced a cross between the navigation system and smartphone from the Nüvifone based on Android. So Android is an operating system with many faces.

Linux: The operating system for technology savvy

The Linux operating system ekes out a niche existence. Despite numerous attempts to make the system palatable to the average user, Linux is and will remain the operating system for users who are more tech-savvy. Linux is the operating system of the open source movement and is available for free. It is very flexible and can be run on almost any electronic device with a mass storage device and a 32-bit processor.

Since the operating system exists in the most diverse forms and variations, one cannot speak of the one Linux. Because Linux is only the core of the operating system. For this reason, new functions have been added to it from the very beginning. The Linux kernel (core) is usually supplied with many of these programs so that the usual operating system functions are possible. Numerous programs from all areas as well as graphical user interfaces were added over the course of time, which users and commercial providers publish as so-called distributions, compiled at will.


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