The Operating System Is Dead

by Hadley Stern Sep 27, 2006

If you were on a desert island and you could only take the following two machines:

1. A MacPro with all apps installed with no internet connection


2. A Windows box with an internet connection, Firefox, IM, etc.

Which one would you take? me thinks even the most diehard Mac fan would take option 2.

Why? Because the operating system doesn’t matter anymore.

Before you all start screaming and cursing look back at my original question. And be honest.

Why is this? Well, as I said, because the operating system doesn’t matter anymore.

Or, another way of putting this is that the internet is the operating system.

Sure, it doesn’t boot out computers (although it can) but it does run our lives. How much of our computer time is spent on the web, using our email, using applications that require an internet connection, and using IM? More and more with each passing day. And, when we think of enjoying our computers, yes we think of the incredible things we can design and create with our applications (which, by the way, can increasingly run on either platform,) but we also think of surfing the web and emailing friends.

So what does this mean for the Mac? Well, first of all it means that Apple should be doing everything it can to focus on product development that leverages the internet. In many ways it is already doing this. The .Mac product line and isync is a good example. But a better example is iTunes, Apple’s most used application (note, released on Windows too) that happens to have the internet at the heart of its raison d’etre. After all, iTunes really is an internet client for the music store, podcasting, and a CDDB server for your collection.

Apple needs to think about its operating system and where the internet can fit in much more aggressively. And it needs to prepare for the day when the OS is simply a dumb terminal for a series of web services. Word processor? Gone. Mail App (oh yeah, already gone)? Gone. Need to rotate an image? Do it in Flickr not iPhoto. Heck, need to manage a photo collection and share it with others? Flickr again.

Apple needs to think iPhoto, and think about an OS and applications that leverage the internet at their core.

Otherwise, 20 years from now, Apple will just be an operating system, that funny thing that we used to need but no longer do.


  • “And while an XP box with Firefox can still be used to do other things, like Word or Excel or your taxes or Photoshop, an OS X box without internet is much less useful.  The issue of virii and all that other stuff is IRRELEVANT.  ALL of you would still pick the internet over OS X despite trojans, virii, and spyware.”

    Whoa there Beeblebrox. Hadley said “A Windows box with an internet connection, Firefox, IM, etc”

    It seems to me that the “etc would be for bundled Windows software. Word Excel and Photoshop DO NOT come bundled with any version of Windows that i am aware of.

    I wouldn’t take the internet machine. For a few reasons.

    1) internet use isn’t all that important to me. In fact, it’s a distraction.

    2) Communication looses relevence, as chances are, I don’t know the coordinates of the Island that I’m trapped on.

    3) With ALL of the software available for the Mac, I’d be able to keep myself entertained for quite some time. I could study up on creating 3-D art, Write up a book or two, Create music, create 2-D art (with the same Applications that you DON’T get on the windows choice) and yes, even play games.

    Dang, I’m tempted to shut off my router right now.

    Personally, I don’t like the idea of NEEDING the internet. Plus, I don’t want a company, ANY company, to have access to my data. THAT IS PRIVATE!

    Case in point, I need to take my machine in for service. You’d best believe that I’m going to completely backup and whipe my Hard Drive before it leaves the door.

    liquidmark had this to say on Oct 05, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I would take both.

    How? Why? What?

    As he instructs us, “Before you all start screaming and cursing look back at my original question. And be honest.”

    He tells us, clearly:

    “If you were on a desert island and you could only take the following two machines:
    1. A MacPro with all apps installed with no internet connection
    2. A Windows box with an internet connection, Firefox, IM, etc.”

    The operative word being you could only TAKE THE FOLLOWING TWO MACHINES:

    Not one of the following, but both.

    But, typo aside, I think the question is totally bull.

    Because it is human instinct to survive.

    An internet connection means rescue.

    Rescue means survival.

    Therefore internet = survival.

    So it doesn’t matter what the choices are. The choice that leads to survival will win.

    The question is rigged, has nothing to do with which computer/OS is better, but instead is a block of deliberately controversial text that does not prove anything to me.

    What do you all think?

    Max Rule had this to say on Oct 05, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Any sane person who wanted off the island would take a Psion 5 MX with 56k modem over a complete collection of all Macs currently on sale, maxed out, with unlimited Pro Care and all the software you could eat, but without connection.

    People like to survive, indeed. Perhaps Hadley should address whether the operating system is dead, as the article pretends to be about that topic.

    I’m just amazed that anyone could maintain that asking a question like this and making some spurious conclusions constitutes a proper treatment of this subject. Poor on effort, above all else.

    Benji had this to say on Oct 05, 2006 Posts: 927
  • In the about 20-30 minutes it would not matter. The Windows machine would be so full of spyware, worms, and viruses, and you would be too far away from the IT department to get help! I guess I would take the Mac!

    digiprod had this to say on Oct 08, 2006 Posts: 1
  • What if you were at home and left with the exact same options?

    Still think that the OS is dead?

    TriangleJuice had this to say on Oct 09, 2006 Posts: 5
  • OS or no OS, the concept of “operating system”, as I think of it, will never be gone.

    Let me explain myself. Anything on a computer requires organization. Anything on the Internet can be organized. But to go on the Internet, you need something called a Web Browser, or just Browser. Removing the OS from a computer and giving access to a browser only is actually very bright, but the Browser itself then becomes the OS. Are the future OS going to be called Browsers?

    Probably. But consider the fact there already is different browsers, with different capabilities, with different compatibility problems, and different people needing different things using them. Doesn’t that make you think of something familiar? : OS.
    So if we were to replace the word OS with the Browser, it would basically be the same, except everything would be Internet Based.

    And one more thing, you still need web servers to do the whole thing, those still require hard drives and things like that. This effectively means original OS won’t be gone and will be nessesary to administer the servers. You could say Firefox will be able to administer the servers, but the whole concept of dead OS goes away at the minute you add static storage (HDD).

    In other words, Operating Systems will never die, they will evolve functionnality-wise, and Windows and Mac OS are such big landmarks, that they probably will become the browser themselves, sharing the same name of their ancestors.

    Pacoup had this to say on Feb 28, 2007 Posts: 1
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