The Operating System Is Irrelevant

You may be reading this on an iPad running iOS 4.3.  Did you know that? Did you care?  Linux?  Android?  Windows?  What difference does it make?  Really, none.

All you care about are your applications.  Reading email, watching a movie, browsing the web, listening to music.  Where does the operating system figure in to that list?  Nowhere.  Sure, it might come into play if there was a particular application you really wanted and that application only ran on a specific OS.  That’s the only time it might matter, the majority of the time people are not going to care.  They care about email, movies, music, reading and doing things.

We’re also moving into an era of low-cost applications, many costing $2-$3 dollars or less.  How big of a hit would it be if you bought a different model of phone and had to pay for those apps all over again?  It would hurt, maybe gripe a little, but it’s not the end of your financial world.

The age of $150 dollar operating systems running on an $800 desktop box carrying applications that cost $200 is coming to an end and the real question is if anyone will even notice when it happens?

These days the operating system is just a convenience for your applications.  Many of those applications don’t do much beyond phone home to a server somewhere and deliver data back to your phone, iPad or tablet device.  Even applications aren’t running on your device operating system, they’re running somewhere in “the cloud”.  Your phone is just a platform with a screen and input device.

So, what does that mean for the future of companies specializing in expensive operating systems and applications?  As speculated in many places on the web nothing good.  For now desktops still have a place and as laptops become more powerful, the age of expensive desktop applications is likely to drag out for a few more years.  But the end is in site and there’s a certain inevitability forming around the transition.

Fewer companies are investing in big, desktop software systems.  Witness Apple laying off 40 percent of their Final Cut Pro developers.  Developers themselves are jumping ship from desktop applications to apps for smart phones.  The whole concept of a software development company is starting to change.  When one or two developers can get together and make millions off a game for iPads, who needs an employer?

Regardless of the reasons, the change is a good one for consumers.  More choices means more competition and more competition means lower prices.  And we’re one step closer to the day when data and applications are more like a utility than a product.  Plug it, turn it on and go. Just like it should be.

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