Computer software is the combination of programs and applications that interface with the computer’s physical components, the hardware, to enable the user to perform specific functions and tasks. There are two basic types of software, known as system software, which is responsible for the basic functions of the computer, and application software, such as Word Processing programs, which enable the user to perform actual specific tasks, e.g., typing.
An operating system is a software behind all the system and application management; it is responsible for organizing and controlling how each of the interfaces of the system with each other (basically the smooth running of every programmed), for example, allocating the appropriate amount of memory following which programs are running and require more power and input. Examples of operating systems are Linux, and of course, Microsoft Windows, which holds a monopoly on the computer market for such systems. Without an Operating system, computers are merely empty shells with little or no use. They will typically run their own application software; for example, Microsoft Windows has packages such as Microsoft Office, which deals with word processing, publishing, presentation slides, databases, etc. Modern computers can run several applications simultaneously without crashing and becoming slow, depending on the operating system’s power and capabilities.
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Software is constantly being updated, and new versions being released. So much so that current systems can become out of date within months – it is a very fast-moving and fast-evolving industry area. Microsoft has just released their latest operating system to follow on from the roaring success of Windows XP; Vista. Packages available include Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, and Business. The main improvements and selling points of this service package include state-of-the-art user interfaces (Aero – Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open), easier transfer of media between devices and computers, better security (virus protection, etc.), and new multimedia programs. For example, Windows Media Player 11 is included in the package. It has undergone a major revamp, including user interfacing, new search capabilities, and the facility to hook up with external devices such as the Xbox 360.
However, many consumers are fully aware of Microsoft’s dominance in the computer industry and in particular the software market and are reluctant to shell out for the new program where many of the new features are seen as luxuries rather than necessities, and on top of that Vista cannot be installed on any machine – brand new machines must be purchased with the system already built-in. So potential customers will have to buy a whole new PC set up just to be able to use Microsoft Vista – not a popular choice amongst consumers in an industry where there will doubtless be further improvements and new, better software waiting just around the corner. An advantage gained then, for rival Linux, whose majority of software CD’s and packages can be accessed for free, so whilst it is a lot more complex and less user friendly than the likes of Microsoft and their Windows packages. Yet, it remains one of the most reliable and up to date operating systems out there.