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A question about Operating Systems

  1. Aug 12, 2014 #1
    I have always been wondering that why there is only one commercial operating system which is Microsoft Windows whereas there are a lot of commercial cars, computers, publishers.

    Best Regards.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2014 #2


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    There are several others (Mac, Unix), but MS is the biggest consumer OS because of natural monopoly power: it is a big hassle to change from MS to Mac (for example), so few people do it.

    The analogy to cars is not a good one because all cars are essentially equally compatible with all roads and drivers.
  4. Aug 12, 2014 #3
    I actually want to learn that why other firms do not realise other OSs or in other words how did Microsoft become monopoly power? Why is it a hard thing to do a good Challenger against Windows ? I have asked this question especially for PCs, Mac is not regarded as a PC in spite of it is for a personal usage and Unix are not for trading and I think not easy-to use and as practical as Windows. This question is also current for CPUs because there are only the two, Intel and AMD.

    Best Regards.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
  5. Aug 12, 2014 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    There used to be - IBM had several. Digital Research had two. They were all out-competed by Microsoft.
  6. Aug 12, 2014 #5


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    You could ask yourself why aren't more new companies founded which build cars or airplanes. After a certain point, the costs of entering a new market for a product and building a company from scratch become prohibitive.

    People have chosen to live with the quirks and bugs endemic to MS OSes because the benefits of using the software which is available to run under this OS outweigh the negatives of the flaws of the OS, i.e., people have settled for the devil they know rather than one which is completely unknown.

    Also, AMD CPUs are still hanging around because they can execute code developed for Intel CPUs. If they weren't capable of this, AMD would have faded into history, like Motorola and others, who might have had a better chip design than Intel but couldn't run all the software written for Intel CPUs. At one time, even Apple recognized the dominance of the MS-Intel axis, and made the Mac OS capable of reading MS formatted disks and in some cases running Intel code, IIRC.
  7. Aug 12, 2014 #6


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    And it could have gone the other way. The first company to bring out dual-core CPUs, and 64-bit architecture for "mass-market" PCs, was not Intel but AMD. For a while it was Intel who were playing catch-up. Microsoft still calls its 64-bit versions of application software "AMD64", not "Intel64", because the current generation of Intel chips are AMD-compatible, not the other way round.

    Actually ARM-designed CPUs are now outselling Intel. (I say ARM-designed, because the ARM doesn't do its own manufacturing). The OP didn't explicitly say the question was about desktop computers. ARM supplies about 60% of the CPUs in mobile devices. They are also powering lots of desktop computers' graphics cards. ARM isn't a new kid on the block either - it has been designing CPU chips since the 1980s.

    The main barrier to introducing a new OS is simply the cost of developing applications that can replace what is already available. That barrier didn't apply to mobile phones, so new OS's like Chrome and Android are more widely used than the few phones running Windows. Apple has two different OS's for its desktop and mobile devices, OS-X and IOS.
  8. Aug 12, 2014 #7


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    AMD had the good fortune to be the second source of Intel CPUs for IBM when their PC went into production. Because IBM's contract with Intel required that a second source of CPUs be available, Intel licensed their 8088 and subsequent CPU designs to AMD for production, although the two companies later tangled in court when Intel refused to license its 386 CPU to AMD under the original IBM agreement. For better or worse, CPUs capable of executing Intel machine code will be with us for the foreseeable future.

    AMD is hoping to branch out into ARM-compatible chips by sampling a product sometime this year. AMD has also hedged its bets by purchasing graphics card maker ATI some years ago, competing against the other graphics heavyweight, nVidia.

  9. Aug 12, 2014 #8


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    Yep, that's the crux of the matter.
  10. Sep 1, 2014 #9
    I suggest you research the development of Operating Systems, especially if you are entertained by Soap Operas or War Stories. It is a fascinating saga, sometimes exciting, often disgusting and disturbing, both funny and sad, and always a mirror on the realities of the marketplace.

    Technically Macs are now PCs since they use Intel CPUs and dropped the RISC based early OpSys models in favor of OS-X, derived from Unix-like BSD.

    I don't understand your comment about not being "easy to use" since "user friendliness" has always been the hallmark of Macs, indeed all Apple products. They literally invented "Plug 'n Play" a full decade before PCs.

    As far as "practical" there are many industries and types of users (multimedia creation and editing come to mind) that are dominated by Mac. Since the vast majority of Home Computer users merely email, visit Facebook, watch some movies, surf the web a bit and laugh at cute cat memes, and perhaps play a few games, this is largely a non-issue, as Macs do those things effortlessly. The only bug in the soup these days is Office compatibility (which MS thwarts by changing formats but may soon have to stop) yet OpenOffice and especially LibreOffice are quite viable alternatives.

    The biggest problem for Mac is a mistaken hangover of the perception that Macs are overpriced. This came about because Apple originally chose a very closed, nearly embedded type of system that only supported a limited list of top notch hardware (such as enterprise quality SCSI hard drives back when the cheaper IDE hard drives were less functional, more prone to failure, and considerably slower). None of the above are still true.

    While they still prefer high quality hardware, having switched to an OpSys with on-demand loadable drivers, Mac has been capable of supporting more different kinds of hardware than Windows does, since 2002.

    Recently IBM has invested billions of dollars (yes, you read correctly) in Linux, all but abandoning AIX and it's other Unix systems. At the same time (nobody knows for certain if they are related) RedHat has championed a new init system that is poised for very large scale commercial deployment along the lines of efforts (and supported by and contributed to) by the massive Google. It borrows some concepts from both Mac and Windows but has the flexibility and security of Unix systems. It has many old timer Linux users in an uproar because it is seen as an effort to close up the system, but it has vendors drooling. There are now only a small handfull of distros that haven't switched to systemd.

    An early implementation of this, CoreOS, can be found here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CoreOS. While the wiki speaks mostly about vast enterprise application, note that it grew out of ChromeOS which it and Android are basically forms of Linux leaning toward this new, albeit somewhat closed, model.

    The Soap Opera may yet continue.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2014
  11. Sep 1, 2014 #10
    Start with a biography of Bill Gates!
  12. Sep 1, 2014 #11
    Yes! He essentially majored in Poker while at Harvard and it has served him well indeed.
  13. Sep 1, 2014 #12


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    I think this is what you need: http://www.pbs.org/nerds/

    Not sure if the video is available anywhere, but they do have the transcript there.
  14. Sep 2, 2014 #13
    I have learned that Google have maked an O.S for PCs called Chrome O.S and China will make a national one for PCs. Do you have any idea on Google's O.S. Will it be stable and free?
  15. Sep 15, 2014 #14


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    Incidentally, there is not just one Windows operating system. There are dozens of different kinds of Windows operating systems being sold at any one time. This made it so difficult for people programming on Windows that Microsoft had to develop .NET, a virtual machine, to make all the different Windows operating systems act mostly alike no matter which operating system one is coding for.
  16. Sep 16, 2014 #15
    Microsoft got in heavy with business when IBM chose Microsoft to write the OS for its first PC in the early 80's.

    Apple expanded heavily in primary and secondary education with its simplistic Apple DOS software and its easy to learn Apple Macintosh OS.

    Microsoft came to dominate the desktop, in my opinion, for the following reasons.

    1) Businesses are the biggest purchasers of hardware and IBM was a trusted brand whereas Apple's, along with all non-IBM PC's were largely considered to be toys for hobbyists.

    2) The people who made the purchasing decisions in the 1980's for the family were usually the man, the same man who often used IBM PC's at work, not the kids or the homemaker who may have gravitated more towards an OS like Mac.

    3) The IBM PC was quickly clones and Microsoft was quick to support the clone market, which could offer advantages like bargain basement prices and were generally open, whereas competitors were generally closed. For the most part, Apple clones were never successful so you were locked into the Apple ecosystem where there was no competition.

    4) Microsoft was very good at using its money and influence to dominate the market and run competitors out of business. By the mid 1990's, pretty much every competing OS (Amiga, Atari, et cetera) were dead and Apple was moribund and close to being sold.

    5) So much money has been put behind developing Windows that only a handful of companies could really afford to compete against Microsoft and it would be very difficult. Apple has rebounded and made some headway, but they position themselves as a luxury item on the desktop, which leaves Microsoft free to capture the vast majority of the low and mid-cost arena. Now, if Apple started making a $399 Macbook, it might give MS a run for its money.
  17. Sep 16, 2014 #16


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    Not quite plug and play. Early MAC's had no DMA functionality for it's I/O, relying on an initial polled read or write to transfer the first byte of data, followed by 511 "blind" reads or writes with a hardware handshake and timeout if the device took too long. Aftermarket SCSI adapters were made with actual DMA which required their own drivers. PC's have had DMA since the very first PC and some ealier still CP/M systems.

    The often promised "the next Mac OS" will be pre-emptive multi-tasking for version 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, never happened until OSX, with the desktop version released in 2001, while Microsoft released Windows NT 3.5.1 in 1995 followed by NT 4.0 in 1996, Windows 2000 in 2000, Windows XP in 2001, ... .

    In the 1980's MAC's were overpriced compared to similar PC's, and Apples decision in late 1989 to raise prices across the board on all MACs, epecially the ones with color, combined with the gaining popularity of 386 PC clones with Windows 3.0 (1989) and later Windows 3.1x (1992), corresponded to the 1990's era with MAC's market share going from a bit over 10% down to around 2%. Since 2000 and later, the pricing differential has gone down, and MAC PC market share is back above 10% again.

    Microsoft soft sold PCDOS to IBM for a one time price, but reserved the right to sell MSDOS for PC compatibles. Microsoft made it's initial fortune by selling MSDOS for all the PC clones that later appeared.

    Although the various versions of Windows have dominated the PC market place, other devices such as smart phones have been dominated by other operating systems, Android, Blackberry, IOS, Windows, ... . IBM's current mainframe operating systems is z/OS (first released 2001), a 64 bit operating system that also includes the equivalent of virtual machines that can run UNIX, Linux, older IBM operating systems, in 64 bit, 32 bit or 24 bit legacy modes.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2014
  18. Sep 21, 2014 #17
    @rcqldr (and others who enjoy Techno Soap Opera)

    This will be a bit out of order (and probably TLDR but for the few who love the history of things) but first let me address pricing.

    Price (and intro to PnP)

    Were Macs (and other Apple products) commonly priced higher than PC systems? Yes. Was that OVERpricing? NO! The quality of components was commensurrate with price. The most obvious example I already noted being SCSI devices as opposed to ATA/IDE, but Apple always tried to keep prices down and even develop new hardware considerably cheaper that that which existed, but would not go below a higher threshold of quality.

    Example - (from wikipedia-MacIntosh)

    Note: There were 8 TTL chips (in addition to 4 PAL Chips and 2 more TTL Chips to control the controllers in an integrated manner) providing DMA control, but limited to Video and Audio. There just weren't many peripherals back then that needed larger scale DMA control.

    Please don't forget that for several years when "Wintel" either couldnt address more than 1MB RAM at all and later more only through a tiny "window" (not to mention other barriers like segmentation ), Mac's system directly addressed 16MB and suffered far less barriers than "WIntel" did. That may sound small now, in light of multi GB systems, but it was Orders of Magnitude larger and more powerful, then. Doesn't that take higher development cost hardware (and associated software)? and wouldn't one expect that difference to come with a price difference? Certainly nobody expects to pay the same price for a 100HP Fiat as for a 1600 HP Lamborghini.

    Note: The highest HP Lamborghini is actually ~700 HP, less than 0.5 of the above analogy, and costs almost $400,000 USD. A 106HP Fiat 500 is $13,000 USD. I'm not comparing the cars, just our accepted expectations of cost/benefit where we know the benefits. In the 1980s (and even later) many wondered why any individual would even want a PC, let alone be willing to pay the price of a car to own one. THIS is why Macs inherited the mistaken tag of "overpriced".

    Plug 'n Play

    True, later, other peripherals depended on either ADB or the add-on, or later, built-in, SCSI bus, but the affinity for busses is plusses. You may recall that although USB 1.0 was called a "serial bus" it was not a true bus in the sense that even IBMs short-lived parallel VLB bus was, but more importantly the SCSI bus, which includes processing of Command Queuing, defined at the device level. This sort of intelligent bus handles interrupts in a vastly superior manner.

    This led to the choice for FireWire, a true bus in which devices could interact and "set themselves up" for interrupts (with fewer needed, btw, since even back then the SCSI drive controller could access multiple drives simultaneously, soon numbering 15 devices). The only reason drives that evolved from ATA/IDE now feature simultaneous access is the move to SATA and the Advanced SCSI Programming Interface (ASPI). This is also when Apple/Mac decided to embrace the cheaper drives, when they reached similar performance and reliability, and when sheer adoption rate numbers kept the price down to near PATA pricing.

    Firewire was fully functional as true Plug 'n Play Bus by 1986, and very mature by 1990. Members may recall, by contrast, the Win98 TV intro in early 1998 in which a USB Scanner was plugged in Live, which promptly crashed the system.

    Also, going back to 1988 with the Mac II, bus mastering expansion cards had become available. By contrast, this did not become commonly available on Intel machines until mid 1990s. Any PCI component can request control of the bus ("become the bus master") and request to read from and write to system memory. DMA is still in there for legacy, but has been obsolete a very long time.

    Having even 2 chainlinked 8237's was not only no guarantee of Plug 'n Play, it was an abject failure with legacy that plagued even early PCI devices. As a then system builder and service tech, I cannot possibly count the number of hours I spent in C:\config.sys and C:\autoexec.bat getting any ISA device and many PCI devices to resolve conflicts. Soundcards were particularly abyssmal.

    The "high byte" problem mentioned was a choice at the time and was abandoned by 1989, with v7, notably with the release of the Mac IIci. I find your emphasis on DMA puzzling in light of the history of Plug 'n Play hardware, and my statement stands. Mac's PnP was superior from the very beginning until the year 2000. So maybe I was too conservative with "10 years" when 15 is closer to the mark.

    IMHO, Windows 2000 was the first true 32-bit, stable (as well as pretty much fully functional PnP) OpSys by MS. In the beginning Windows was a lesser quality product with superior marketing. While there are reasons to choose or try other systems, nobody can argue that they haven't matured well. Windows has become more than just popular. It is now robust.
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