Crystal Ball Gazing

It used to be that there was a fundamental difference between Macintosh computers and PCs. I could give you the list of items but then if you are reading this, you probably already know what I’m talking about. I make no bones about being a fan of the Macintosh. I have also used various versions of Windows for almost thirty years. Not to mention all of the other operating systems along the way. I feel particularly qualified to say, the operating system wars are over.

Who won? We all did. Why is there still more than one operating system? Why are there more than one kind of car? People have different preferences. Most often it boils down to what they are familiar with. In my case, I am equally familiar with Windows, macOS, and Linux so it boils down to taste and habit. I think that the continued existence of multiple operating systems is essential to the continued evolution and improvement of all operating systems.

What is in the future of operating systems? That is impossible to say with any authority. It all depends on the imagination of the developers that write those systems. I do think I can identify some trends though.

Operating systems will evolve so that they fade into the background of the workflow. Take for instance the move toward so called cloud computing. Someone I work with once quipped “Cloud computing is just doing your work with someone else’s computer.” The point that he was missing was that you are doing your work without having to worry about what computer you were using. If you needed to access data on a central server, it felt the same to you as accessing data on your local machine. If you needed to enlist a bunch of processor cores to solve a problem with lots of independent data, the cloud can arrange for the resources without you having to worry about any of the details except paying the bill.

Opera recently announced an experimental browser called Neon that uses a paradigm of a desktop in the browser. Favorite URLs are represented by icons on the “browser-top” and different open tabs can be viewed in split screen mode or collapsed to icons along the side of the screen. These are interesting variations on the operational scenario of web browsing. This is particularly interesting considering the recent proliferation of web applications that run in the browser instead of on the native operating system.

So the days of “my operating system is better than your operating system” are over except for the inevitable arguments in junior high school lunch rooms. Adults have largely come to realize that it is a matter of choice and there really isn’t any compelling reason to prefer one operating system over another on a strictly objective basis.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.