Well, weíve taken a look at three big companies, two storied and one modern, and how they started out one way and went another. Now itís time to do the same with three Operating Systems. The three we will be looking at will be Windows from Microsoft, OS X from Apple and Linux. Linux has no single leader really, save for its original creator. It is in effect an amalgamation. There are many contributors to the open source operating system and many different distributions. For the purposes of this article, Iíll try to address Linux as a collective, singling out individual entities as needed to proffer specific information.
The stories of these three operating systems should be well known to most, so I wonít spend as much detailed time describing the background as I did in the hardware section with IBM, HP and Gateway. Suffice it to say, the point of the text that is to follow will be to show how these companies have turned the corner and started off in a new direction, whether it be for good or for bad.
An Apple A Day...
Apple surely has a storied past. They are a combination hardware/software company, but it is really their innovative operating systems that have captured the hearts of consumers and caused the development of such a loyal following. They did not invent the GUI, but they sure did refine it with some outstanding efforts. Their Macintosh operating systems have not always been the fastest or the most stable, but they have been eminently usable to the masses that love them so much. If you want to get things done fast, youíd use a Mac, or so the saying goes. Why? Because they put function and form together in a cohesive product that put all other attempts to shame.
They decided to tie their operating system directly to their hardware, and through the implementation of this closed system, hoped to get the most out of every piece. Without a doubt, they accomplished this goal in a very successful way. The Macintosh operating system was the epitome of an easy to use interface. A one button mouse made navigating bullet-proof, and the consistently simple and elegant menus and folders were intuitive and easy to learn. For many, many years, the operating system stayed true to its roots. Long file names had been implemented early on, and in fact so many things were done right early, they did not feel the need to overhaul the interface for quite a number of years. If it ainít broke, donít fix it, right?
Even when Steve Jobs was ousted from the company by the board, Macintosh users remained loyal. The company had a good thing going, and it survived almost in spite of itself. However, as time went on, people began to realize that Apple had become a stagnant company and had not planned well for the future. It is kind of hard to plan for the future when you have kicked out the heart and soul of the company. Long story short, Jobs started Next computer with a Unix based operating system and an optical drive. The hardware was too ahead of its time perhaps, but the Next software struck a chord with developers and corporate entities alike. What had been designed as an educational tool ended up being a minor success in corporate America. Almost by accident, Jobs had innovated his way back into the mix. When Gil Amelio, then CEO of Apple, got his hands on the Next software, he knew there was something special there. Jobs had the magic touch, and if anybody could help Apple regain their focus and their mission, it was Jobs. Amelio ended up purchasing Next for some $400 million and brought Jobs back as a consultant.
Since then, Steve Jobs, already a billionaire thanks to Pixar, has turned Apple around in a very, very dramatic fashion. There were iMacs and iBooks to be sure, but the biggest thing has been the move to OS X. This latest OS is a vast departure from the past and has its roots in large part in the Next operating system Jobs had earlier produced. Based on Unix, OS X can stand toe to toe with the best of them in terms of multi-tasking, multi-threading and stability. It is more open than the Mac OS ever has been before, as the underpinnings are based on Open Source. The Aqua GUI is gorgeous, and the built in applications are awesome. Apple has really turned up the heat in this all or nothing change of pace. Iím a fan of innovation, so I hope they succeed.