Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

A "Non-tech" Guide to Where Operating Systems are Going

Over the past few years Apple's operating system has continued to gain market share over the world dominating Windows OS. Not that Windows is in any danger of completely going under at this point, but there has been enough disruption that we have seen Windows starting to react in its recent releases. I expect Windows 8 to be the most obvious yet, with many features that we first witnessed in Snow Leopard and Lion from Apple. At a certain point though, the battle for desktop OS dominance becomes a little irrelevant. Why? Because many of us are using our desktop computers less and less these days as we become tethered to our mobile devices. And who is winning the mobile battle right now? Apple, of course. That still isn't the end of the story yet. The next frontier isn't simply mobile OS, but synced, cloud based, browser integrated OS! That's right, even mobile is becoming yesterday's news. And if you're thinking, "seriously, how do we keep up with this stuff"... I completely agree! Let's take a quick look at what's happening in this world.

Let's briefly look at the driving forces causing the innovation to swing forward with significant force. First, there is the mobile wave. As people begin to have more devices, the need to sync those devices is becoming incredibly important. I want my iPhone, iPod, iPad, and iMac to have the same data on them so I can work or play wherever I am. I want my movies on all my devices, as well as my pictures and my documents or even my apps. Major OS players such as Windows and Apple have launched their own integrated cloud sync services, and third party companies have also made significant progress in this arena such as Drop Box, Google Drive, Rackspace, and Box.

The second driving factor is the availability of Internet connections. These days many of us spend a significant portion of our waking hours connected to the internet. Further, we aren't just connected at slow data speeds but lighting fast broadband connections at home or speedy 4G service on mobile devices. Data connections are becoming less of a limiting factor. We are always on the internet and this is driving the way we consume information and the expectations of customers. We want to do the same things we can do in the office at the coffee shop. We want the same convienance in our living room and in the park.

Finally, there is this little (OK, it's not so little at all) update called HTML5. Now if you're not a huge "techy" than I won't bore you with all the little details here. It is important to understand that this will change a lot in the near future. HTML, in the basic sense, is the language of the Internet. It's how we program what you see in yor browser. HTML5 is currently under development but starting to make its way out into use. This update is being set to handle some very cool things, most interestingly the ability to handle complex web applications right within your browser. Yes, this means I could write an application for your web browser that might be just as powerful as an application running on your operating system. Further, HTML5 is being built to handle multi-media in an entirely new way. For instance, the ability to decode h.264 video within the browser.

So the bottom line here is that we are all connected to the internet via web browsers that are becoming increasingly more powerful. We have the desire for the same experience no matter where we are. This, than, is really the new frontier. It's not the idea of "mobile" and " desktop" or "online" and "offline". It's the idea of one, seamless, connected, synced, experience. So who's already trying to make this happen? Well there are two significant players right now that are actively and prograssively advancing this idea.

First, and most notably, Google. Google launched their Chrome web browser sometime back but quickly started pushing applications and extensions within the browser. Shortly after this they launched Chrome browser as Chrome OS. This would be a device that only runs Chrome and the applications or extensions within it. For instance, you might type with Google Docs, store files on Google Drive, and use other apps within Crome like Spotify, Facebook, and Twitter. Of course they have their mobile OS out, Android, which can now also run Chrome as a browser. We'll see where this goes.

Another notable entrance is Firefox. The Mozilla web browser pioneered many of the features you see in Chrome today. Just recently Mozilla announced they will be entering the mobile market in 2013 with a smartphone mobile OS. This phone will run an open source product that will sync and run extensions and applications like Firefox.

The new frontier is going to be about synced, shared, online, experiences. HTML5, mobile, and internet connections are making this possible. Remember, we are looking at the future here so no one is really there yet. All the major players are making moves that tip towards the future. The real question in my mind is not who will get there first, but who is already positioned most effectively for this move. As far as software is concerned, you've got to give the edge to players like Google or Mozilla. On the other hand, Apple as been operating out of this "shared, synced, experience" mindset far longer than anyone else. Finally, don't loose sight of Amazon and that pesky Kindle tablet or Windows and... well... their piles of cash.

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