10 Essential Examples of Operating Systems

Whether we are using desktops, laptops, smartphones, video game consoles, or other similar electronic devices, the first software we use after starting these devices is usually an operating system. An operating system is the core software used by every modern computing device, which allows users to operate the associated device without us noticing. There are a variety of operating systems specifically designed to run on specific hardware and support specific applications.


In this article, we are discussing some of the most popular examples of operating systems that exist to be used on various devices for specific requirements. However, before we discuss the examples of operating systems, let us first briefly introduce the definition of an operating system.

What is an Operating System?

By the definition, “an operating system (also called an OS) refers to a specially designed program or software that acts as an interface between the computer hardware and the user, while performing all the basic operations or functioning of a computer such as handling the connected I/O devices, memory management, process management, file management, etc.

Computer devices must have at least one operating system installed in order to perform basic functions or allow other programs such as browsers to run. The choice of using an operating system on desktop and laptop computers can vary depending on the user's interest as users get the flexibility to install the desired operating system accordingly. However, this is not always the case with other devices, especially mobile devices.

Generally, mobile devices, tablets, gaming devices, and other similar electronic devices come with a specific operating system specifically designed for the respective device by their manufacturer. Users do not get the option to install any other desired operating system on such devices. They can be upgraded to a newer version only if provided by the manufacturer. However, some such devices can be modified accordingly by users with advanced programming and development knowledge.


What are examples of operating systems?

Nowadays, a wide range of operating systems are available to be used on various devices like mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc., and even the new ones are coming up with distinctive features. Although there are many operating systems for different devices with different features from each other, the following listed are some of the best and most notable examples of popular operating systems:


Examples of Operating Systems

Microsoft Windows

Since 1985, the Windows operating system has received several minor updates as well as major upgrades. In 1985, the first version of Windows (Windows 1.0) was released as a GUI-based version or extension to MS-DOS. MS-DOS (released in 1981) was a non-graphical command line OS designed primarily for IBM computers. Although DOS is not much popular today, the command shell (called Windows Command-Line) is still present in the Windows OS and is frequently used by users.

Windows 95 (released in 1995) was the first Windows operating system sold as a standalone OS. It led the rapid development in the field of personal computing with its user-friendly interface. Although Windows 95 seemed to be an operating system in itself, it was built on top of DOS which continued to operate in the background. With Windows XP released in 2001, Microsoft left DOS and switched to the modern 32-bit Windows NT kernel.

Windows OS has since been one of the most popular operating systems for business and home computers in the world. Nowadays, most modern computers come with Microsoft Windows OS preinstalled. Also, some mobile phones come with Windows Mobile OS as well. However, the compatibility and usability of Windows on mobile phones were not liked by the users as expected. So far, Microsoft has developed, marketed, and sold a range of Windows operating systems such as Windows 95, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7/8/10/11, etc.

Android

Android is currently the most popular operating system in the world based on the number of devices installed. Although Android is primarily designed for mobile devices (smartphones) and tablets, it has become one of the main competitors to Windows and Apple’s operating systems. This mobile operating system is designed as a modified version of the Linux kernel in combination with some open-source software.


Android is developed by a consortium of developers known as the Open Handset Alliance and is commercially sponsored by Google. Initially, Android (version 1.0) was released in 2008 with the first commercial Android device called the HTC Dream. Since then it has gained a lot of popularity and continues to grow with new updates and amazing features.

Unlike iOS, Android OS can be used by many mobile manufacturers, not just Google. In addition, the manufacturers get access to edit some components to make the OS easier to use for users or to add specific features to suit their needs. Similarly, users can also install custom versions of operating systems modified by themselves or other developers. However, most of the users prefer to use the official OS provided by the respective manufacturer due to its stable performance, enhanced security, and warranty purposes. Android allows users to choose from a wide range of mobile applications to install from the Google Play Store.

iOS

Although designed specifically for Apple mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad (which has now its own iPadOS), and iPod Touch, iOS (formerly iPhone OS) is the second most popular and widely installed mobile operating system after Android. iOS is created and maintained by Apple and is not provided for other manufacturers to use. Apple rebranded the ‘iPhone OS’ name to 'iOS' in 2010.

Initially, iOS (version 1) was released with the first iPhone (also known as iPhone 2G, iPhone 1, and iPhone Original) in 2007 without support for third-party native applications. Later in 2008, Apple introduced the iOS App Store, providing support for third-party applications that took advantage of the iPhone SDK.


Nowadays, users of iOS have access to countless applications. The operating system is primarily known for its strong encryption features and unique user interface. With regular updates and tweaks, iOS has become a proven stable mobile operating system for Apple iPhone hardware, with many unique features like iMessage, iCloud, Apple Pay, Siri, Face ID, FaceTime, Safari, Built-in Gestures, etc.

macOS

Like Windows, macOS (initially called 'Mac OS X') is also a series of graphical operating systems. Initially called 'Mac OS X', it was shortened to 'OS X' in 2012 and then rebranded as 'macOS' in 2016. This proprietary operating system is developed, marketed, and sold by the Apple company. It is an operating system that only comes installed with Apple's Mac computers and workstations.

The macOS is the second most used desktop operating system in the world after Windows. The first desktop version of macOS (Mac OS X 10.0) was released in 2001. The OS is based on parts of the early Unix operating systems and similarly shares some core features. Although the graphical interfaces are different, many of the underlying program interfaces and CMD features of macOS are similar to those of the Unix-based operating system Linux.

Apple's mobile operating system, iOS, is a variant of macOS. Apple's operating systems are best known for security, encryption, user-friendly interface, performance, and many unique features. Signature features of macOS include unique keyboard keys like the Command key, stoplight-colored buttons to help us resize application windows, and the Dock used to find applications or files.

Chrome OS

Chrome OS (or ChromeOS) is a popular operating system built or developed on top of the Linux kernel by the Google Company. Although initially based on Ubuntu, the base element in Chrome OS was later changed to Google's self-designed Linux. Besides, it is derived from free software called Chromium OS and utilizes the Chrome browser as its primary user interface.


The first public version of Chrome OS was released in 2011 with Samsung-designed Chromebooks (computers specifically designed to run only Chrome OS). Later, other manufacturers also adopted Chrome OS and released Chromebooks with their own branding. In 2013, Google itself came up with its own built/manufactured Chromebook Pixel.

Originally, Chrome OS was developed only for Chromebook users. However, it was made available for other PCs and Macs that could be used or installed via USB as a bootable OS. The latest version of Chrome OS supports a wide range of progressive web applications, Chrome applications as well as Android applications from the Play Store.

Google has worked on many segments and tweaks to make Chrome OS more usable, secure, and packed with essential features while keeping the performance stable even with low hardware resources. According to reports and market data by various research companies, Chrome OS has overtaken macOS based on installed devices in several different quarters, sometimes claiming the spot of the second most popular desktop OS after Windows.

UNIX

UNIX is a multitasking, multiuser, powerful computer operating system developed in 1969 by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and some other members of AT&T Laboratories. It was primarily designed to be used inside Bell's Labs Research Center. However, it was later licensed to several other outside parties, which further continued the development.

UNIX has been the base for many modern operating systems with continued development since then, such as Linux, Sun Solaris, and even Mac OS X. Linux itself became very popular and its packaged form became known as the GNU/Linux distribution. There are also many Linux distributions for a wide variety of machines with unique features, both free and paid.

UNIX-based operating systems are still widely used as the base in many modern computers, workstations, servers, and even mobiles. Although there are different variations of UNIX, they all share many things in common. Like other operating systems, UNIX-based operating systems also have a graphical interface to make it easier for users to use.


The UNIX operating system is considered the heart of many operating systems and typically includes the following three main elements: the kernel, the shell, and the programs. Key features of UNIX include simplicity, portability (can run on different systems), multitasking and multiuser capabilities, the availability of a hierarchical file system, and an extensive library of software.

Linux

Linux (technically the Linux kernel) is one of the most prominent examples of free and open-source operating systems. It is commonly known as a Unix-like OS based on the Linux kernel (the core element of the Linux OS) and developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Although originally created by Linus Torvalds, Linux has been developed by programmers around the world. They collaborate by modifying its source code and then submitting changes to the central kernel software and related programs for review.

Unlike other popular operating systems such as Windows and macOS, Linux is not an operating system with a graphical interface and common software such as browsers, media apps, word processors, etc. Instead, it has multiple distributions with similar features. There are hundreds of distributions of Linux. In all such distributions, Linux sits underneath all running software as the base operating system software.

Being open-source, Linux (technically its kernel) source code can be used, edited, and distributed commercially or non-commercially by anyone who complies with certain terms of its respective license (i.e., the GNU General Public License). Ubuntu is a popular non-commercial distribution, while Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a popular commercial distribution.

Initially, Linux was designed to be used only on personal computers. However, it was later ported to many more platforms, making it the base element for many operating systems. It not only powers computers and smartphones, but also various embedded systems such as routers, video game consoles, digital video recorders, smartwatches, televisions, automobile controls, etc.


Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a free-to-use, open-source, Linux-based operating system. It is suitable for computers, smartphones, and network servers. The operating system comes with all the necessary programs like browser, media app, email, office suite, etc. In addition, there are thousands of third-party applications that can be installed from the Ubuntu Software Center.

The initial version of Ubuntu OS (version 4.10) was released in 2004. Since then, there have been many other versions. Each Ubuntu release has a version number consisting of the respective release year followed by the corresponding month number. Ubuntu can be installed as a standalone OS, used as a bootable OS via USB, or run through emulator programs on various operating systems such as Windows.

The current version of Ubuntu Desktop supports almost all the common software that exists for Windows. With a built-in firewall and virus protection, Ubuntu is considered to be one of the most secure operating systems. In addition, updates are pushed constantly for Ubuntu users to enhance security or add more features to OS.

Fedora

Fedora is another widely known open-source operating system for computer devices and is based on the Linux OS kernel architecture. It is a strongly secure, general-purpose operating system developed under the Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat, an IBM subsidiary. An initial version of this OS (called Fedora Core 1) was released in 2003.


Fedora always aims to release two major upgrades every year. Although the Fedora official support cycle is short, it lets users easily upgrade from one version to another without having to reinstall the entire OS again and again. Fedora is a free-to-use OS for everyone, with additional permissions to modify and distribute it accordingly.

There are over hundreds of distributions working on top of Fedora, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the XO operating system. Furthermore, Fedora is known for its usefulness as the second most used Linux distribution after Ubuntu. Although Fedora is not as flashy as Ubuntu, it is a viable operating system for users, especially who prefer Linux, due to its solid base, excellent Flatpak/Snap support, wide software availability, and rapid release of new features over frequent software updates.

BlackBerry OS

Blackberry OS was one of the popular mobile operating systems developed by the Canadian company Blackberry for its series of smartphones. Initially, the OS (version 3.6) for the smartphone named BlackBerry 5810 was released in 2002. Blackberry OS was liked by the people for its new and exclusive features such as a QWERTY keyboard, strong support for multitasking, trackball, and push internet email. However, all such features were later adopted by other popular operating systems and manufacturers.

Although BlackBerry gained considerable popularity, it lost out to Apple and Samsung for dominance of the smartphone market. One of BlackBerry's big mistakes was that the company primarily favored enterprises and businessmen over the tastes and preferences of regular customers. Also, Blackberry did not change its operating system to match the new offerings from its competitors and at the same time retain the same physical model for its smartphone, which also generated less interest from users. The option to install apps in BlackBerry OS was limited as there were very few apps available.

Despite being one of the first smartphones, Blackberry failed to understand the changing environment in the smartphone market and could not innovate or act accordingly. BlackBerry OS was discontinued in 2013 with the release of its redesigned BlackBerry 10. However, the company continued to offer support for devices running the older BlackBerry OS until the end of 2013. In early 2022, BlackBerry completely stopped supporting all of its operating systems, essentially making its iconic smartphones nearly obsolete.


Summary

An operating system is a part of system software that manages the various essential programs, services, and applications needed to run or function by computer systems or mobile devices. It is responsible for managing the hardware and software functions of the device. It is not possible for computing devices to run without an operating system.


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