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Where Are Operating Systems Headed? 278

Posted by Zonk
from the oses-in-spaaaace dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Dr. Dobb's Michael Swaine breaks down the question of where operating systems are headed. Among his teasers: Is Vista the last version of desktop Windows? (Counterintuitively, he says no.); Did Linux miss its window on the desktop? (Maybe.) And, most interestingly, are OSes at this point no longer necessary? He calls out the Symbian smartphone OS as something to keep an eye on, and reassures us that Hollywood-style OSes are not in our short-term future. Where do you weigh in on the future of operating systems? In ten years will we all be running applications via the internet?"
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Where Are Operating Systems Headed?

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  • I think the author of the article is displaying a great deal of confusion over Operating Systems vs. Programming Platforms. Which is understandable. We've had the concept of "everything included on the CD is part of the operating system" idea drilled into our heads for the last decade or so. There has been little attempt to recognize how distinct different portions of today's "operating systems" actually are.

    Consider for a moment: What is Debian on FreeBSD? [debian.org] Is it a FreeBSD operating system or a Linux operating system? Or is it a Frankenstein kitbash of both? The answer is, neither answer is correct. It is the FreeBSD kernel combined with the GNU Platform.

    Separating the task of operating the hardware (traditionally the job of the kernel) from the higher level "platform" has a variety of implications. The most important implication is that the software is as portable as the platform is. It doesn't matter if the underlying kernel is FreeBSD, Linux, or Windows NT. If you software targets the GNU platform, it is portable across all those systems. At least at a source level, though binary compatibility is ideal.

    Thus when programmers make the comment that Java "is like an Operating System", what they mean is that the Java Platform is sufficient to replace the platform that shipped with your operating system. While the focus is currently on integrating the disparate platforms, what you're starting to see is that the OS is taking a back seat to the platform. Programmers want portability across devices, and Information Technology wants more flexible deployment solutions. Combined, these two needs add up to a drive for further portability of platforms with an eye toward using the right kernel for the right deployment solution.

    That is where "Operating Systems" are headed. Not the monoliths of yesteryear, but the flexibility to provide familiar functionality where you need it and when you need it.
    • by tchuladdiass (174342) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:53PM (#17949828) Homepage
      The definition of an operating system I like to use is:
      An OS is a collection of code that is used by software to manage access to system hardware via a well defined API, along with a collection of standardized utilities that provide for user access and management of system hardware and data structures and data streams associated with that hardware.

      So, under this definition, the kernel is a peice of the OS, disk access utilities are part of the OS, but applets such as a mini word processor and paint program are mearly bundled utilities.
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:59PM (#17949942) Homepage Journal
        What is OpenGL? ODBC? SDL? XLib? They aren't part of the Operating System, and yet they're not programs. What are they?

        Programmers think of them individually as APIs. Collectively, however, they add up to the platform the software targets. As long as that platform is available, the software is portable.
        • by davidwr (791652) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:16PM (#17950228) Homepage Journal
          Think of a computer as a layer of platforms. Applications can target any platform unless some part of the platform stack restricts such access.

          A typical PC:
          CPU and other hardware, BIOS, OS kernel including kernel-level library routines and virtual-machine subsystems, OS-supplied and 3rd-party library routines including OpenGL and non-kernel virtual machines, and applications. For the sake of simplicity I'm ignoring complex scenarios like OSes running in a VM that's running in an OS that's running in a VM.

          In principle, applications can "call" functions at any level in the stack, although in modern OSes the kernel blocks direct access to the BIOS and some other hardware and the chip itself blocks access to privileged instructions by unprivileged applications.
          • by flosofl (626809) on Friday February 09, 2007 @02:54PM (#17951850) Homepage

            Think of a computer as a layer of platforms. Applications can target any platform unless some part of the platform stack restricts such access.
            I'm sorry, this is /. You aren't allowed to explain things in a clear and concise manner. At the very least you should be using a car analogy.
            • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:59PM (#17952818)
              Well you see, your computer is not a series of tubes. It's more like a truck that you can dump things on. Your operating system is the driver, and the rest of your software are the people yelling at the driver to turn this way and that. Most of what you've dumped into your truck is probably against the law but you should be fine as long as you don't dump any of it into anybody else's truck.
        • by slamb (119285) * on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:32PM (#17952384) Homepage

          What is OpenGL? ODBC? SDL? XLib? They aren't part of the Operating System, and yet they're not programs. What are they?

          Libraries.

          There's no point in getting too pedantic about terms like "operating system" that don't actually have widely-established meanings. There can be absolutely no doubt about what code belongs to the kernel and what code belongs to userspace and what difference that makes. Library vs. application code is pretty clear, too, though at run-time much of that distinction is lost (or even after link-time in the case of static libraries). So now that we've defined what they are in terms of words with actual meanings, who cares whether it's part of the operating system or not?

      • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by khasim (1285)
        Why include things like "a mini word processor"? That gets into too much interpretation of what "mini" is.

        I prefer to define an OS as the code that controls the local hardware.

        If the OS allows some other app to control the local hardware then that OS has a "vulnerability" and is not "secure". There are lots of examples of that in history.

        Apps run on the OS. And app can be something such as Java which can run apps itself. But Java should never be touching the local hardware.
    • by complexmath (449417) * on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:10PM (#17950100)
      I envisioned a modular OS where the core provided essential features and all the trappings were completely pluggable. Don't like the UI framework? Use a different one. Same for the filesystem, etc. At the heart of the OS I expected to see a sort of object database where all these features were installed and managed, with some sort of OpenDOC layer on top to retrieve modules as needed. Of course, I was way off the mark, but this is the kind of OS I would like to see in the future.

      Unix has this to some degree, partially by virtue of it being old, but there exists no structured management system for the packages at this basic level (that I'm aware of). And while I grant that one isn't necessary (the shell/filesystem combination is fine for package management), the lack of one tends to complicate things from a user perspective. Linux has made great progress over the years in achieving high-level usability, but many low-level tasks still require a good bit of domain knowledge and thought, largely because of the filesystem/shell nature of how these tasks are typically performed. If this process could be simplified and in turn made more reliable (it's a bad example, but compare installing an application on MacOS compared to any other operating system), then I think things would be moving in the right direction. This isn't to say that being able to mess with the core of things is bad, but it should be an option, not a requirement.
      • It's difficult to precisely follow your vision in a quicky Slasdot post, but it sounds somewhat interesting. Have you considered snagging some free Blog space and doing a full writeup of your idea? At the very least, communicating the concept in detail can help you find problems and solutions that you haven't yet considered. :)
    • by Salvance (1014001) *
      Agreed. We'll have configurable computing platforms for decades, whether they are in the form of desktops, laptops, tablets, PDAs, or some not-yet-invented device doesn't matter. It's unreasonable to assume we'll ever run everything off the web, as the web can never provide the access and reliability of a disconnected device.

      Also, how has Linux missed the boat? Linux is WAY behind on desktop usability features (from a typical end-user POV), but there are thousands of developers working to improve it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eno2001 (527078)
      I agree. But the average person doesn't make these distinctions. As far as they're concerned Microsoft Office or even Microsoft Word is the operating system. In terms of technical discussions, it would be nice if people would stick 100% to the technical viewpoint. But, even technical folks get distracted and slip into using "OS" to mean a complete kernel + subsystem + desktop environment + applications. Sadly I don't think most people will ever get the distinctions.

      I have yet to read the article so my
  • What geek would run a operating system without using his or her head? We're not all mindless consumers.
  • What's the point? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by itsmilesdavis (985700) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:52PM (#17949808)
    Everybody is talking about running applications through the internet. Why would we, as consumers, want to do this? The RIAA and MPAA are attempting to limit our ability to make backups of things we purchase. Now, software appears to be heading in the same direction. If we start streaming applications, then we could easily get into a pay-as-you-use function, or some other horrid distribution system. Frankly, I would not want to be charged every time I open a text document, or an IM window, or an internet browser. And I don't like the idea of paying a subscription fee either. I think forcing people to stream applications through the internet will only push more people into using Linux, so that everything is right there on the machine.
    • The point of Internet applications, or equally, Intranet applications, is "run anywhere" convenience.

      My ISP offers webmail. If I use it instead of POP, I can read my mail anywhere, anytime. In exchange, I lose the privacy that comes with keeping my data local. I also lose the ability to read my mail when the ISP has a hiccup.

      Google offers maps. In most cases Google Maps is a lot more convenient than firing up my local street-maps program. It's also "run anywhere."

      On the other hand, I don't think I'd wa
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by misleb (129952)

        My ISP offers webmail. If I use it instead of POP, I can read my mail anywhere, anytime. In exchange, I lose the privacy that comes with keeping my data local. I also lose the ability to read my mail when the ISP has a hiccup.

        Try a service that has IMAP. Or have POP leave a copy on the server (though not as good as IMAP). One big problem with relying on webmail is that you can't easily integrate multiple accounts into one interface. Most webmail services are designed to access that service only (although

  • by Peter Trepan (572016) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:53PM (#17949836)

    I'm worried that we're going to keep building on top of the macrokernels we already have, without cleaning up and simplifying things as we go. I'm worried that the future will be as presented in Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky, where everyone runs an operating system too large, un-modular, and spaghetti-like for anyone to understand, much less debug. Hurry with The Hurd, RMS!

    • by EXMSFT (935404)
      Vista has shipped, and you're worried about that NOW? Man, where were you 24-48 months ago when Microsoft needed you?
    • Some cleanup happens (Score:3, Interesting)

      by davidwr (791652)
      There was a time when people tried to cram an http server into Linux.

      It may still be there but it's not used outside special-purpose environment.

      Likewise, until recently people tried to cram almost every filesystem and pseudo-filesystem under the sun into the Linux kernel. With the advent of FUSE, future pseudo-filesystems and even real ones will be in userland. Sure they won't perform as well but at least they won't kill the kernel when they bug out.
    • by Chirs (87576)

      If you were to look at the history of the linux kernel, you'd see that this happens naturally. New APIs come in, old ones get deprecated and eventually removed.

      Look at dnotify->inotify, devfs->udev, initrd->initramfs, VM changes, module loading, ppc/ppc64 convergence, etc.

      One of the things that maintainers of outside-the-tree code complain about is the amount of churn in in-kernel APIs. This churn is due to exactly the "cleaning up and simplifying" that you mention (as well as adding new features
    • Tanenbaum's point still stands.

      I'm not sure if minix3 will be the future, but I do think it's a peek at a direction that would work well.
  • {...buh-dum-ching...}

    Thank you, I'll be here all night...TRY THE VEAL!
  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <(moc.eroomnived) (ta) (ofni)> on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:55PM (#17949886) Homepage Journal
    The vast, vast majority of internet-goers are already running a lot of stuff on the internet, like email, various activex controls, etc. which aren't technically traditionally installed apps, even if they're not entirely internet-based either. The transition phase is over, and now that more and more internet-based apps are coming out, it will just be a more diverse environment -- not just a "pc only" or "internet only" world.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      You're right. Until the software needs to directly access hardware, in which case "Windows only" or "Mac only" will still apply.
  • Consumer devices (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames (468013) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:56PM (#17949900)

    Two words: Consumer devices.

    I think Steve Jobs has seen the future, and realised that the PC won't be so important, the action is all going to move to various types of devices aimed at consumers. So, he started with music players, is moving into portable video/gaming and now of course telephones, and has made the first steps towards TV. Television is the biggie of course, and I believe Jobs is being deliberately low key about his intentions there - with the low key announcement of the Apple TV box, for instance.

    Here's a prediction, in the next few years Steve Jobs is going to make a presentation where he says something like "First we revolutionised the personal computer, then the music player and the telephone. Now we're going to revolutionise television..."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0racle (667029)

      the PC won't be so important
      You say that, then proceed to list everything from Apple that is designed to have a Mac at the center of it all controlling it. iPod? iTunes on a Mac (or Windows machine). iPhone? Gets information and syncs with your Mac. AppleTV? Receives broadcast from a Mac.

      That Mac looks pretty important to me.
      • by pubjames (468013)
        You say that, then proceed to list everything from Apple that is designed to have a Mac at the center of it all controlling it.

        I don't think they are designed that way, I bet future iPods will have a direct link to the iTunes store and you'll be able to purchase music directly. And I'm not sure why you think the iPhone needs a Mac, it looks like a pretty standalone device from what I've seen. Finally, the box that they currently call the AppleTV I believe is not the final product - that will come in the nex
        • by HAKdragon (193605)
          Wasn't the whole point of the Apple TV to stream Music, Movies, TV Shows, and Photos from your computer?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by robably (1044462)
      Two words: Nearly right.

      It's not that the consumer devices that are becoming important in themselves, what's important is that they are becoming interoperable. This is what Apple is doing with the iTV, iPhone, and the iPod, and if anything the PC (Mac) becomes more important because it ties all the consumer devices together.
    • Too bad he has been preempted by the Venice Project/Joost.
  • Symbian? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:58PM (#17949934)
    Symbian? You've got to be kidding me, right?
    He definitely never looked at it or never tried to develop something on it.
    If Symbian is your answer, you've got the wrong question.
    • by shmlco (594907)
      Not only that, but it sounds like there's not "a" Symbian, but three of them, sort of like three really bad Lunix forks. See this article [roughlydrafted.com] for more.
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:58PM (#17949936) Homepage Journal
    Counterintuitively, he says no.

    How is this counterintuitive? Of course Vista is not the last version of desktop Windows. You don't think Microsoft will want to retain their revenue stream in 5 years? Plus with China growing economically there will still be much demand for new computers with new OSs for many years.

    In ten years will we all be running applications via the internet?

    Maybe, but that doesn't mean there will be no OS. Even thin clients need some form of OS. Your web browser has run on hardware somehow.
  • by wsanders (114993) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:01PM (#17949982) Homepage
    I'm inspired by Ray Kurzweil's keynote at RSA Conference 2007.. http://singularity.com/ [singularity.com]

    If you're a M$ hater, just wait until "sap and impurify your precious bodily fluids" is a system requirement.

    Among other nanotechnological breakthroughs, Kurzweil says it will be possible to inject robotic blood cells that will enable you to "sit at the bottom of a swimming pool for 4 hours."

    OK, for now I'll settle for Fedora Core 42 and nano-robots that will let me drink as much red wine as I want without getting a headache.
    • by martyb (196687) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:15PM (#17950206)

      Among other nanotechnological breakthroughs, Kurzweil says it will be possible to inject robotic blood cells that will enable you to "sit at the bottom of a swimming pool for 4 hours."

      Big Deal. I can do that NOW, without any nano-anything. Heck, I bet YOU can, too!

      Now, if you insist on filling the pool with water... <grin>

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dunbal (464142)
      robotic blood cells that will enable you to "sit at the bottom of a swimming pool for 4 hours."


      I wonder what those "blood cells" are going to do with all that HCO3-? Lung physiology doesn't simply consist in oxygenating the blood. The lung also has to get rid of that excess CO2 (dissolved in the blood as HC03-), otherwise the blood pH will decrease very quickly leading to respiratory acidosis and death. I'm not sure how you can breathe out without breathing in, though...
  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:07PM (#17950052) Homepage Journal
    For a computer to be useful, you need hardware, applications, and input and output. That's it, nothing more.

    Everything in between is there as a convenience.

    Whether it's convenience library routines like math libraries, a hardware-abstraction or -virtualization layer, or things that let more than one application coexist and even communicate, or whatever, OSes and other "in between" parts of a computer are there to make the application more useful, easier to write and maintain, or both.

    We will always have these in-between layers. Whether the "in between" layers of the 22nd century are anything like today's OSes only time will tell.

    Personally, I think 10 years from now you will see just about every application running in an isolated environment, possibly a VM of sorts. In particular, applications which access machines or applications that are not "trusted" will be run isolated from other applications on the system. They will be able to save files to a scratchpad area and send events to certain other applications such as a printing subsystem, but that's about it. Applications will communicate with other applications on the same PC in much the same way distributed applications, such as a web application, communicate today.

    By 2017, I also see most applications using virtually no local storage except security credentials and cached data. All "real data" will be stored on "the big server in the sky" or "the big server run by the IT department." The exceptions will be applications demanding extreme privacy, such as diaries and non-networked dayplanners, applications demanding offline use, such as cellphone notepads, and "convenience applications" like calculators and non-networked games.

    By the time our Kindergarteners reach High School, the distinction between wristwatch, cellphone/PDA, and laptop/desktop/home-entertainment-center will be one of scale and purpose, not architecture or raw capability.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Doctor_Jest (688315) *
      We had that once before... and the personal computer shattered that model.... Ever since then, companies, governments, and people who crave control have been trying to push us back to that model.

      I'll use a pad and paper before I'll go back to dinosaur computing.... I don't have to be connected to the internet to use my computer/game console/phone... But it does add convenience... I don't know if I want to trade autonomy and 100% control of my computing devices for the ubiquity of "scaling purpose". Tha
  • Sadly I fear OS's of the future will be much like OS's of today, at least for the common man. MS still has no incentive to really make OS's better for consumers instead of better for MS and a lot of incentive to make their Windows OS's more and more restrictive. They know their model is slowly being undermined, but they plan to use .Net to effectively create the internet equivalent and lock everyone into one online platform instead. Other companies still have little motivation to invest in the desktop OS ma

    • by benzapp (464105)
      Your rant is pointless. No one besides Microsoft, even Apple, has figured out how to render fonts properly. Until that time, sit back and praise the gods that most people don't have to look at blurry fonts on Macs and the jagged ones on Linux.

      • Your rant is pointless. No one besides Microsoft, even Apple, has figured out how to render fonts properly.

        It's funny because I know two people who cited better looking fonts as one reason they switched away from Windows. I actually have both IE+WinXP and Safari+OS X running on this same monitor and I prefer the look of the fonts in OS X. Maybe you need to look at your font settings if you're having problems.

    • by danpsmith (922127)

      Sadly I fear OS's of the future will be much like OS's of today, at least for the common man. MS still has no incentive to really make OS's better for consumers instead of better for MS and a lot of incentive to make their Windows OS's more and more restrictive. They know their model is slowly being undermined, but they plan to use .Net to effectively create the internet equivalent and lock everyone into one online platform instead. Other companies still have little motivation to invest in the desktop OS ma

      • Vista is essentially a shinier piece of crap. Microsoft has pretty much ceased innovating.

        I think there are real improvements in Vista, although there are many technologies added to benefit MS and disadvantage customers as well. Indexed searching is not really that innovative, but it is an improvement. Fewer default privileges for standard users is a plus.

        ...then the market will eventually eat them alive. People hate IE7 and some started switching to Firefox due to IE6's poor maintenance.

        If MS stop

  • by Morgaine (4316) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:10PM (#17950098)
    Until devices and other hardware components have enough built-in intelligence to communicate with each other and with user programs, and until their built-in intelligence is presented to applications through a standardized communications interface, there will always be a role for operating systems.

    And the reason is simply that this is the primary role of an O/S: to glue together many rather dumb components (some virtual, some non-local), and to provide a standard abstraction for them, so that applications can be programmed with a degree of sanity. Everything that O/Ss do can be considered in those terms.

    Host operating systems will disappear when they are no longer needed. And *that* will happen only when/if their key functions have migrated into the hardware, so it's a defensible argument to say that actually they will never really disappear, but transform.
  • My utopian vision (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stratjakt (596332)
    In 10 years, your OS choice will be pretty much irrelevant. With virtualization built into desktop processors, you could just go ahead and run a hybrid linux/bsd/windows/osx box and run whatever application you want or need natively. Your host OS would be irrelevant.

    Ok, Apple will keep it's fiefdom - but there's really nothing in that world I'd miss.

    I would love to see some sort of unified driver type - your driver and hardware not tied to an OS, but that's unlikely.

  • by johnhennessy (94737) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:15PM (#17950218)

    While the author correctly identifies a huge potential market for smartphones in the coming years, maybe his assumptions about Symbian are a little naive.

    These smartphones are becoming popular because they are becoming more and more like a standard PC every day. The only exception being the user interface (if anyone has an idea how to fix this, give me a call ! I promise to share in the huge profits ! ).

    This is facilitated by the increasing processor power that these phones have available to them. Symbian was designed for small memory, low performance processors which incredibly strict power consumption requirements and limited connectivity running in a highly controlled environment (i.e. software environment).

    The cost of developing drivers for Symbian (with all its quirks) is enormous. At the moment, the semiconductor companies are getting hit with the cost of this development. This will not last forever, they will always strive for the cheapest possible solution - and this helps explain Linux large penetration in this market.

    The company that holds the best cards in this field is Apple. They have waited until mobile devices have become powerful enough to run (only slightly modified) standard PC kernels (XNU). This is going to save them a fortune in the years to come. Microsoft has missed this boat - they are trying to split their OS into as many different branches/versions/flavours as possible, while neglecting the requirement to try and maintain a common "brand" across all devices.

  • by EXMSFT (935404) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:20PM (#17950300)
    Hardware + software = device. No amount of mindless drooling by Gartner "analysts" will change that. Sure, the OS may get smaller, and Nathan Myhrvold's much feared vision of the "Megaserver" (see here [iowaconsumercase.org]) may be fulfilled - oh wait, it already has [google.com]. But at the end of the day, a device with some semblance of UI presentation to get the "'net goo" off of the Interweb tubes to the glass will still be required. And to print. And to play audio, video, and store info locally. Because at the end of the day, sure you can store stuff up in the cloud. But it has to come down at some point or another in order to be useful enough to even keep. Hence, an operating system (or embedded OS, whatever) is necessary.
  • platforms (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alucinor (849600) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:24PM (#17950352) Journal
    I think operating systems will increasing become less and less of a concern for all of us, except for hardware scientists. Those of us more interested in applications care more about the platform, which I see over time being standardized in freedesktop.org, with various implementations or bindings in about every major "platform" interpreter/machine, be it C(++)/Kernel, the JVM, the CLR, or Mozilla. I also see all the major scripting languages having JVM and .NET ports one day.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:28PM (#17950424) Homepage
    ...not that I have any idea for a new one, but the OS as we know it is one of the prime examples of a system whose rationale is "we've always done it that way."

    People have forgotten that the original goal of the "operating system" was nothing other than to automate the function of the "operator," reducing personnel costs and making sure that the computer wasn't sitting around at $200 an hour waiting for someone to square up the next deck of cards and load them into the hopper.

    The only people who think they can tell you what an OS really is are the students who have recently memorized some textbook definition. An OS is an intertwingled hairball of utterly arbitrary functionality. It has evolved from competitors copying whatever it is that another competitor did, messing some things up, adding some cool stuff, and doing random things dictated by marketing strategy.

    Want to bundle HyperCard, but you promised the database vendors you wouldn't compete with them? Easy, don't call HyperCard a database, call it part of the "system software." Want to hide the fact that your graphical shell could run on a competitor's operating system? Easy, just say Windows is part of--no, wait, IS--the operating system. And so it goes.

    It is quite possible to use a computer without an operating system. I'm not saying any of these are viable paradigms for today, but none of the original versions of BASIC required an operating system. MUMPS is largely self-contained, no OS needed.

    There is an opportunity for some kind of brand-new conceptualization. No, I don't know what it is. If I did, I'd promoting on it. But, yes, I think it's very likely that twenty years from now the idea of an operating system will seem as quaint as the idea of a front panel with lights and switches on it. There was a time when nobody believed you could run a computer without _that_, either.
    • It is quite possible to use a computer without an operating system. I'm not saying any of these are viable paradigms for today, but none of the original versions of BASIC required an operating system. MUMPS is largely self-contained, no OS needed.

      I'm curious. Are you saying that the original BASIC didn't need an operating system, or you didn't need to interact directly with the operating system when you used BASIC? I'm pretty sure the latter is true. Either BASIC interacted with the OS itself, or it WAS

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by a.d.trick (894813)

      Want to hide the fact that your graphical shell could run on a competitor's operating system? Easy, just say Windows is part of--no, wait, IS--the operating system.

      As appalling as it might seem, this is actually quite true with MS Windows. The GUI code is actually in the kernel itself.

  • by argoff (142580) * on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:33PM (#17950520)
    People still can't wake up and smell the Hummis. The debate never has been about the direction of technology, but about the direction of freedom and liberty. The saying "the stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone" has never been more true. People go on and on about how this feature matters, or that GUI, or such and such technology, ease of immediate use, or this and that driver/optimisation, consumer/corporate adoption, or DRM - and they still gon't get it. When people have the freedom to copy and modify without being punished and fenced off, those things will come naturally and more, when they don't then it does not matter how nice it is - it will eventually be overtaken and become obsolete. Free markets are not about technology or markets, but about freedom and people using it to create wealth and opportunity where it hasn't existed before. If that doesn't define the free software movement, then I don't know what does.
  • by ccozan (754085)
    well, maybe not in 10 years, but maybe 20, nobody will have a PC-as-we-know-it. Maybe some of us, geeks and nerds, will keep some beige boxes on the basement. But majority of the people will carry and interact with highly portable or tiny embedded systems - but with double+ computing power of what we have now ( wild prediction). Which leads to the conclusion that the OS of the future is not what we know of now ( as in Desktop Loaded with a OS called Windows). At least for the client/consumer part. So, Symbi
    • by geekoid (135745)
      I had a beiag box 20 years ago, why do you think the next 20 will be different?

      The PC does the same thnig now as it did then, only faster.

      Tne operating system is irrelevant? I wonder what runs all of googles boxes then? magic pixies?
      The OS is relevent, it's just they it is very difficult to compete against a market leader no matter how much better your's is. It might be better to say that the OS is pretty much a commoditey.

      • by Rob Kaper (5960)

        I had a beiag box 20 years ago, why do you think the next 20 will be different?

        Because in twenty years (or more likely five to ten) you can have all the computing power and application/data storage you want in a device the size of your.. phone. People are already use their phones for one or more of playing music, taking pictures, reading e-mail and web browsing. The missing link are the peripherals, but as soon as we can cradle our phones into a home/office or laptop-like cradle to have a proper screen and

      • by HAKdragon (193605)
        I wonder what runs all of googles boxes then? magic pixies?

        I could have sworn it was hamsters in hamster wheels. But magic pixies could be an improvement, they don't seem to wear out or, you know, die as fast.
      • by Dunbal (464142)
        I had a beiag box 20 years ago, why do you think the next 20 will be different?

        The PC does the same thnig now as it did then, only faster.


        20 years... let's see, 1986. I remember 1986. We had just traded our PC XT for a PC AT, at a whopping 4MHz clock speed and a whole 1024bytes of RAM. A year after I even got a VGA card for it... I had 2 20MB hard drives as well.

        But my PC back then didn't: play music and movies, display more than 256 colours, multitask, help me ta
  • There is a lot of discussion about various parts of OS's, but here is something. This is my wish list of what I'd like to see i the ideal OS released in 3 years:

    • Completely open source, for innovation and support from a variety of vendors.
    • Security granularity for files, users, applications, local services, network services, and hardware access broken down individually and by group
    • Well thought out security defaults, UI, and trust levels for all of the above so the user rarely if ever will have to see any
  • My wife has a symbian. She can't get off the fucking thing. Some days she takes meals on it.

    You should see her. Sometimes she's moaning so loud I expect her head to start spinning 360*.

    But phone?

    It's got attachments, and I admit I'm a bit confused by it sometimes, but I'm pretty sure it DOESNT have a mouthpiece.
    • by hb253 (764272)
      Poor boy, confusing a video downloaded from the Internet with a wife! :-)
  • Linux still has a good opportunity for the desktop market.

    Microsoft will make another Windows operating system. The money is there, and so long as the money is there, Microsoft will be too.

    Internet applications aren't going to take over just yet. Not as long as there's still a good number of people on dial-up (without even the option of broadband). And those of us who do have broadband have fairly shoddy connections, at least as far as running internet-direct applications would be concerned. Network

  • I suspect that we'll see a great deal more virtualization in the future. Certainly that appears to be the direction the major players are moving in, and there are a number of problems that virtualization solves quite nicely. For Microsoft, the big attraction is, I suspect, the ability to easily retain backward compatibility. For server farms, the ability to run several operating systems on the same piece of hardware is a desirable way to cut costs. For minority operating systems, virtualization gives users
  • But it also lets Windows and Linux applications run at native speed on Apple hardware

    Gee, you mean you couldn't run [penguinppc.org] Linux [terrasoftsolutions.com] on [debian.org] Macs [desertsol.com] before [sourceforge.net]?
  • I hesitate to mention this because it's such vaporware at the moment, but I intend to write a next-generation OS. The killer features are:
    • capability-based security [wikipedia.org], from the ground up
    • Microkernel architecture, which brings tons of benefits (principally modularity and isolation). Yes, microkernels have a bad name, but I'm building on L4 [wikipedia.org], a practical, Open Source microkernel that got it right
    • extensive support for low-latency and real-time applications (there is no reason that media players on today's har
  • I, for one, am really glad to hear that "Hollywood-style" operating sysytems are NOT the future. They seem to be so easy to break into.


  • I'm not sure if it was Sun's slogan that triggered it originally, or what, but here's an idea I've been kicking around for 20 years now, at least... why not treat the components inside the box as a network. I don't mean literally using ATA over Ethernet to the drives... use fast interconnects... but design the system as a network. Latency between components is a problem? Why, look, networks are designed to deal with that. Have one (or more) application servers, on physical processors or virtual machines, ne
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ratboy666 (104074)
      And you have it.

      BEGIN RANT

      Isolated processes, running on hardware or VMs, or as processes under an OS. Using network semantics to communicate. A simple model -- forget about threads and the attendant semantic issues. The model is already supported, and even "Windows" can participate (although that locks us into the SOCKETS API). On top of that we can have RPC, shared storage, time and identification services, etc.

      Works wonders, and it has brought us to where we are today. The model can continue growing. Exc
  • So many devices! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alucinor (849600) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:08PM (#17952050) Journal
    Because the future is filled with so so many devices, the winner in "operating systems" will be those which are the most portable. And in that category, we have four clear winners for different parts of the software stack:

    Linux: most portable kernel for talking to the hardware.
    GNU: most portable userspace.
    JVM: most portable VM for taking to userspace and scripting languages.
    Mozilla: most portable platform for web collaboration, especially if Firefox 3 goes forward with the "information broker" role it wants to fulfill.

    These four levels give us a good solid platform for the shifting hardware landscape. Because no matter what, everything always comes back to physical devices, physical presence of some kind.
  • ...that's where, except of course for Plan 9 which will stay right where it is until or unless something better than Rio gains favor. At which point it too will go to hell in a handbasket.
    It's the nature of the beast.
  • by mlgm (61962) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:57PM (#17952778) Homepage
    I believe (or at least I hope) that the future of operating systems does not lie in fancier user interfaces, but in making the computer more responsive.

    Do you know that today's computers are really fast? I mean, those GHz processors are incredibly fast, it is unbelievable what they are able to do in a second. But you might not know it from just using a computer.

    In my daily work I often receive very slow responses from both Windows and Linux machines. I often have to wait seconds for things that should (and could) be instant. I mean after the screen saver on my desktop machine locks the screen, the next user request invariably will be to unlock it. The OS should know that. And it should sit there waiting for any sign that its master wants to work again and then it should instantly present the password dialog.

    Or what about those apps where I have to look for seconds at animated splash screens saying that they load this or that module or plugin. Why can't the OS provide means for loading pre-initialized applications (some folks might remember the undump utility).

    There are possible performance improvements all over the place, which could be achieved by using techniques like caching or using database technology or being able to hint to the operating system which ressources might be needed next. Together with maybe a little more RAM this could create a really reactive user experience.

    I often wonder how you can spend so much money for creating software and come up with such bad and slow design :-).

  • by master_p (608214) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @07:46AM (#17961638)
    The programming language C and the user/kernel mode will not survive for much longer.

    First of all, the C model has been proven to cause more problems than benefits. The C model is defined as the model where native code is executed directly by the hardware, absolute barriers exist between programs, the kernel routines live in a different universe than the programs etc.

    There are great problems with this model:

    1) co-operation between programs proves very difficult both for the O/S designer and the programmer. Very specialized mechanisms are required for programs to communicate: pipes, sockets, shared memory, etc. Those things work nicely, no doubt about that. But to code an API on top of them is not straightforward and it takes time.

    2) viewing a process as a giant array of bytes resulted in billions of dollars of damage in buffer overflow exploits, null & wild pointers, etc.

    My prediction is that at some point in time, someone will come out with an O/S that is not based on C, but on a more advanced programming language, like Java, Smalltalk, Erlang or Haskell. And those O/Ses will prove that APIs are more important than O/Ses, and that modules are better than processes.

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.

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