Author. SysAdmin. Geek. Dad.

OS Doesn't Matter Anymore

For those who’ve been in the tech space for the past 30+ years you may remember the religious fervor of the OS wars in the 80s-90s. A person didn’t simply use computers, they used an IBM compatible system running Windows or a Mac. I was literally bullied in High School because I used a Mac. However, today I had this realization: people don’t care what OS you use any more.

Take a second and think of all of the OSs you touch in a day. You have your main computer you use at work or to do more long form projects, likely Windows or macOS, then you have the mobile OS that runs on your smartphone (Android or iOS), and if you have a tablet it may be different than your smartphone. Or maybe you have a Windows system at home for playing games, but your do your main work on a Linux box. Or maybe you have a Chromebook you use to do the bulk of your work with access to modern powerful and feature rich web apps. Regardless, it’s likely that you use several different computing systems and they all have different operating systems.

With the advancement of Linux desktop environments, the decline in Windows, and the renewed interest is macOS, operating systems have truly become a commodity. They are all good, just work (for the most part), and make it easy to launch our apps. What we as computing users care about is apps not OS. The OS is simply the way to access our apps and allow each app to interact with each other. What this means is, if an app exists on every major platform, like Firefox for example, then it doesn’t matter what OS you use, and I believe most people feel that way. They don’t care what OS they use as long as they can easily launch the app they want to use. Those of us who do more with technology than just launch an app, still care about the OS, but the vast majority of people, a.k.a. the masses, just want access to their apps.

What if the OS is a commodity and apps are the lifeblood of a computing experience? So what does that mean? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe today it means nothing because we do have 4-5 major OSs being used every day and each platform has OS specific apps people use. But I wonder if 90% of the apps people used were accessible on all major OSs (macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android) if people would change the OS they use today. I personally use macOS because it has the apps I need to do various things, however, if I those apps existed on Linux I’d use that instead. I wonder as more and more focus move to apps if the OS under the apps slowly just fades away. Or in other words, will consumer computers become more like Chromebooks that the OS isn’t to focus, just the apps. Will we have multiple consumer OSs in 20-30 years? Will the need of the OS be abstracted away to just be a single platform so people can get access to the apps they need and want?

What do you think? Is there a reason to care about the OS? If in 20 years there will be a single consumer OS, which one should it be based off of and why?
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