DOS=30, Mac/OS=27, Windows=26, Linux=21
The youngest of the four is Linux which is now 21 years old. All of them are out of their teens and entered adulthood where they are now mature and have stopped growing. They have grown up in a world where every computer whether a server or a client had a monitor which was 12’’ or larger, a keyboard, a mouse or a similar device which could be used to move the cursor on the screen and a storage system where files were stored organized hierarchically. They mostly had one processor to run and multi-task multiple applications. But they have already started feeling the generation gap.
Well, DOS should not be in the list because we have already written its obituary. I have decided to keep DOS in this list because the trigger for this post was DOS completing 30 year – its memory still lingers in the latest version of Windows where you can still open a command window and use the DOS commands.
Generation Gap or New Species?
There are so many brash new preschool kids in the family. They are so different that you will be pardoned in thinking that they are not progenies but are different species.
You have the likes of iOS, Android and others who do not understand what a mouse is. To them keyboard, multi-tasking, file systems all are after thought or non-existent. Everything revolves around touch. The largest screen size they look at is probably smaller than the smallest screen size of the previous generation.
Then there is another species called Chrome OS which does not understand anything other than what a browser is but it understands a keyboard and a mouse. It tries to be completely agnostics about the processor and the storage.
The third species is the likes of Eucalyptus, Open Stack and Azure. To them, anything to do with display, mouse and keyboard is only incidental. They subsume their parents like Windows, Linux etc. and can manage any number of them. They in collaboration of others like Amazon, Rackspace, and Microsoft etc. can become omnipresence and omnipotent.
Then you have the fourth species like Google App Engine and other PaaS platforms which is completely ethereal and has no physical form. You only talk to them through a messiah like Eclipse or Visual Studio using language which they decide to speak.
As you can see they have very little in common – their DNA has mutated substantially.
Evolutionary Biologists call this Speciation.
Where does that leave us?
Many of us had a dream that we can think of a language which every operating system will understand. But like Esperanto, that dream lies shattered.
So, what happens to us developers, designers and architects?
We need to learn how to deal with these different species. Before that we need to recognize that we are dealing with things that are quite different from what it was only 5 years back.
We also need to recognize that this may not be the end of the mutation and few years down the line we may have entirely different ecosystem.
We have to unlearn and relearn stuff – welcome to the new world.