The Operating System Shouldn’t Matter

Do you care what operating system runs your Tivo, DVR or cable box?

Do you care what operating system your phone company employs to connect your calls?

What about your mp3 player and car stereo?

Do you care about the system that runs many of today’s cars such as the one found in the Toyota Prius?

If you’ve had an MRI or used any number of medical imaging devices, did you ask your doctor what operating system it runs on?

Do you care which operating system keeps your cell phone running? (or crashing)

What about the systems running many of today’s high tech appliances like washers and refrigerators?

Does it matter what system runs your home security or sprinkler system?

What about your gaming console? Did you ask what OS it runs before you bought it?

Do you care what operating system runs the self checkout station at the grocery store? How about the check-in/check-out stations found in airports and hotels?

Do you care what operating system your ISP uses to connect you to the internet? What about that cable modem/DSL modem and wireless gateway found in many homes?

So why all the fuss over Windows vs. OSX vs. Linux? Why does it matter what operating system my computer runs?


When the system works, as in the case of my Tivo, I don’t care what operating system it runs. It just works. I don’t have to baby-sit it. I don’t have to worry about making updates to it in order to keep it running. No patches, no downloads, no manual rebooting. When it comes time to update, DirecTV takes care of it during the night and it’s up and running by morning.

I hope my kids won’t have to choose between Windows, Linux or whatever. If enough services move to the cloud and broadband is available anywhere, they should be able to use whatever they want without penalty. The operating system should remain in the background and take care of its tasks in silence and stop calling attention to itself.

In short, I want my operating system to act more like my Tivo and my sprinkler system. The idea of getting excited over a new operating system release seems absurd to me. We need to expect more from Apple and Microsoft. Why do people wait in line to pay money for something that’s supposed to fix the product they sold us a few years ago?

Hold me up by my feet and shake me down for a few more bucks.

I’ve wondered what incentive Duracell or Energizer have to sell us a battery that lasts longer than previous models. It would seem that the sweet spot for battery performance would be to figure out how to sell us a battery only a little better than their competitor but no more. Why would they sell us one that lasts 5x as long even if they could?

I wonder if the same idea can be applied to consumer operating systems? What’s the incentive for Microsoft or Apple to provide us with one that doesn’t need to be upgraded for 10 years?

One thought on “The Operating System Shouldn’t Matter

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. It shouldn’t matter what OS you use if we are truly using the “cloud computing” approach. I think that Microsoft, Apple and others don’t have the incentive to provide everything in the “cloud”. This would be a huge undertaking to get all software companies to provide services in the “cloud”. Take for example video games, yes they could deliver the game via download however games are written differently for different OS’s. That is one reason why Mac doesn’t have a lot of games, the OS…From a developers perspective you also have the stuggle of what programming language you use. If you use C# you are stuck on Windows unless you want to go through the pain of using Mono on Linux which is limited in features. If you use another programming language then you may be stuck on another OS. I have to give Microsoft credit for placing more focus on “cloud computing”. Live Mesh is an example of this, their goal is to “mesh” devices of all types no matter what the OS is. Great post, it really makes you think about what you as an End User wants in a OS…and for that matter what you dont want. 🙂


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