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No matter what device you use, you are using one of the different types of operating system available on the market today. Without a functioning operating system, we would not be able to use our computers to communicate or create.

Different types of operating systems exist for all kinds of computing devices. However, all types of operating system have several things in common that allow users to interact with their computers meaningfully. The basis of computing is, therefore, the operating system itself.

​Comparison Table

What Is An Operating System?

Desktop computers, smartphones, and a tablet are all great devices. However, without an operating system, they are useless pieces of circuitry and glass. An operating system allows you to interact with the circuitry inside.

The Interface Between Human And Machine

An operating system provides an interface between the human user and the device, by translating user input from a mouse, keyboard, or touch screen, into digital data that the computer can understand and process.


Typical Components Of An Operating System

No matter what an operating system controls, the different types of operating system variants all have several common components.

These common components include kernel, process execution, interrupt, memory management, multitasking, networking, security, and user interface.

Kernel

The kernel is the heart of an operating system. It's generally the first component that loads, and it lives in the main memory of the computer. It acts as the primary memory manager, deciding which applications get access to which hardware resource and when.

Multitasking

Multitasking is the computer’s ability to run multiple applications at the same time. An operating system must be able to manage all applications effectively without data loss or corruption.

Interface

Most modern operating systems use a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to provide input. In general terms, GUIs use images and icons that users can interact with using a mouse or touch screen to issue commands to the operating system.

Command Line Interface (CLI) uses text-based commands to interact with the operating system. Though most modern operating systems may use a GUI, most also have an underlying CLI that users can access as well.

Desktop Operating Systems

The most ubiquitous type of computer operating system is the desktop operating system. These operating systems are typically used for desktop and laptop computers.

Windows

man smiling in front of computer

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Microsoft Windows started as a graphical user interface to the Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) in 1983. And Windows continued as a graphical shell until the mid-1990s. A shell is an interface between the user and the operating system.

Windows 95

In 1995, that shell received an upgrade to a full-fledged operating system: Windows 95. It had a DOS-based kernel, with a 32-bit userspace. Windows 95 introduced many of the features that have become synonymous with the operating system, including the Start Menu, Taskbar, and File Explorer.


Windows Versions And Updates

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  • Windows Hello is the password-free sign-in that gives you the fastest, most secure way to unlock your Windows devices

Since 1995, Windows has had several different versions. These include Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8.

As of June 2019, the current version is Windows 10. Significant features for Windows 10 include Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant; the Microsoft Edge Internet browser; and support for virtual desktops.

Current Market Share

Microsoft is the undisputed ruler of the desktop operating system market. Between June 2018 and June 2019, Microsoft Windows-based operating systems dominated the market with 78.43 percent of the desktop operating system market share.

Mac OS

Apple computers use a proprietary operating system called Mac OS. The first iteration of the Mac operating system, now known as Classic Mac OS, launched in 1984. The second, and current, iteration of the Mac operating system, known as Mac OS X, launched in 2001.

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Unlike Microsoft Windows, which is compatible with a variety of different processors and hardware, Mac OS (both Classic and OS X) is specially optimized for Apple-approved hardware only.

Kernel

OS X and Mac OS are based on Darwin BSD, Apple’s open-source Unix-like BSD operating system.

Code Names

Did you know?

As of 2019, OS X has gone through 15 different iterations, each with a code name. From OS X 10.0 to 10.8, these code names were based on large cats, including Cheetah, Puma, Leopard, and Lion.

Later versions from Mac OS X 10.9 to current are named after geographic locations in California. The name also slightly changed in September 2016 with Sierra (10.12,) from OS X to Mac OS.


As of June 2019, the current version of macOS is version 10.14 Mojave (Liberty.)

Current Market Share

Mac OS X is the second most widely used desktop operating system in the world, coming in at 13.53 percent of the market share from June 2018 to June 2019.

Linux

Unlike Windows and Mac OS, which are operating systems written and distributed by one company, Linux refers to an entire family of operating systems, built upon the Linux kernel.

Linux Kernel

The Linux kernel is the core of the Linux operating system. It's a Unix-like operating system, originally written and released by Linus Torvalds in 1991.

The Linux kernel is available as free, open-source software, meaning that the code is available for anyone to use, change, and build upon. And the non-profit organization, the Linux Foundation, currently oversees development on the kernel, which includes contributions from over 13,000 developers since 2005.

Distributions

While the Linux kernel is available to download on its own, its most often packaged as part of a distribution. Linux distributions are typically known as "distros."

"Access to computers and the Internet has become a basic need for education in our society".- Kent Conrad

A Linux distribution typically includes a graphical interface, device drivers, and applications.

Many popular Linux distros are free. Linux Mint, Kali Linux, and Open SUSE are all robust, free Linux distros. Kali Linux and Open SUSE are also examples of specialized Linux distros.

Kali Linux is made for penetration testing while OpenSUSE includes system administration tools.

However, companies and individuals can also offer Linux distributions for a price.

For example, the company, Canonical, offers Ubuntu Linux for free but also offers a paid service tier that includes support. Red Hat provides a suite of Linux-based solutions for enterprises.

Mobile Device Operating Systems

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are everywhere. And like desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices also need operating systems to run them.


Android

The Android OS is Google’s mobile device operating system, based on a modified version of the Linux kernel. But it initially launched in 2007 as the operating system for the HTC Dr​​eam.

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  • Unlocked cell phones are compatible with GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile, but will NOT work with CDMA carriers such as Verizon and Sprint

The Android OS was initially developed for and continues to be used by, touch screen devices like mobile phones and tablets.

However, variants of the Android OS now include An, for wearable devices, and Android TV for smart televisions.


Current Market Share

Did you know?

Between June 2018 and June 2019, Android dominates both the mobil​​e and overall operating system market shares. Android accounts for 76.03 percent of all mobile device operating systems and 39.61 percent of all operating systems around the world.

IOS

Originally called iPhone OS, Apple iOS is Apple’s operating system for its iPhone smartphones and iPad tablets. Like macOS, iOS is proprietary and only available for use on Apple products.

Like OS X and macOS, iOS is based on Darwin BSD.

Current Market Share

Between June 2018 and June 2019, iOS was the world’s third most popular operating system overall, with 13.8 percent of total market share.

Other Common Types Of Operating System

While desktop and mobile device operating systems are the most readily recognizable types of computer operating system, there are a lot of different devices that use proprietary operating systems.


Video Game Console

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Video game consoles have their types of operating system.

For example, Microsoft Xbox uses the Xbo​​x One operating system. As of June 2019, the current version of the Xbox One operating system is based on Windows 10. But this operating system is specially made for the Xbox hardware.

The Sony Playstation 4 uses Orbis OS as its operating system. Orbis OS is a modified version of FreeBSD.


Televisions, Watches, And More

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Operating systems don't necessarily have to run large pieces of hardware. In fact, Internet-connected smart televisions use an operating system to control hardware and proprietary applications.

Other devices like smart​​watches and set-top boxes also run their types of operating system. But like smart television operating systems, some device operating systems may be derived from existing operating systems, like Linux, or maybe a completely new, proprietary system for unique hardware.


Logging Out

laptops on the table

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Perhaps the most important thing to remember when it comes to the different types of operating system available, there are many to choose from. And even more importantly, every operating system has its strengths and weaknesses.

Whether you choose a laptop, a desktop, a mobile device, or another computing device, choosing between the types of operating system you want comes down to preference. Whether you want the sleekness of Mac OS X, the broad compatibility of Windows 10, or the freedom of your favorite Linux, there is an operating system that is sure to fit your needs.

What are your favorite types of operating system? Were you surprised to realize how many are based off of Unix-like variants? Let us know what you think in the comments below.



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