An operating system is what controls your computer’s hardware and software. You are responsible for the overall operation of your computer system and its components and their interconnectivity. In other words, through the operating system is how you talk to your computer and tell it what you want it to do. Without it, your computer would just be a bunch of hardware and components connected together in a cabinet. Microsoft Windows leads the operating system industry because of its easy-to-use GUI (Graphical User Interface), among many other reasons. Windows XP is probably the most popular in use right now. XP gained its popularity due to its greater stability than previous versions of Windows. It is also very easy to use and very easy to maneuver. Microsoft likes to offer different flavors of its operating systems, such as Windows XP Professional, Media Center Edition, or the even newer Vista Home Edition, Home Premium, and Ultimate. The different flavors are intended for different audiences. Home editions are for the general computer user who prepares essays, surfs the web, burns a few CDs here and there, and doesn’t really care about the super visuals that Ultimate can give them.
Apple is Microsoft’s biggest competitor with its line of Mac operating systems that come loaded on its iMacs and MacBooks. They are also open source (ie freely distributed code) operating systems such as Linux, which is based on the Unix platform. Linux comes in a variety of different flavors because anyone can take the code, have fun with it, and develop their own Linux distribution. Linux distributions include Red Hat, Knoppix, SuSe, MandrakeSoft, and many more.