The Internet operating system

Tim O’Reilly is a well-known figure in the computing world and the founder of O’Reilly publications, whose books line my bookshelves. He keeps a prescient eye on the frontiers of computing and recently posted about what he refers to as the Internet operating system. It is worth reading. It’s too long to summarize here but here is how it begins:

Ask yourself for a moment, what is the operating system of a Google or Bing search? What is the operating system of a mobile phone call? What is the operating system of maps and directions on your phone? What is the operating system of a tweet?

On a standalone computer, operating systems like Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux manage the machine’s resources, making it possible for applications to focus on the job they do for the user. But many of the activities that are most important to us today take place in a mysterious space between individual machines. Most people take for granted that these things just work, and complain when the daily miracle of instantaneous communications and access to information breaks down for even a moment.

But peel back the covers and remember that there is an enormous, worldwide technical infrastructure that is enabling the always-on future that we rush thoughtlessly towards.

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