What is the difference between a mobile OS and a computer OS?

Why Trust Techopedia

The difference between a mobile operating system (OS) and a computer OS has to do with how individual tech companies have rolled out various versions of the operating systems that supply the fundamental environments for traditional software applications as well as new mobile apps.

Mobile and computer operating systems have been developed in different ways and for different uses. Computer OS products are older and more familiar to larger groups of users. Through the last 20 or 30 years, the simple idea of a computer operating system has been continually built on and improved. Through this time, Microsoft Windows and Apple's Mac OS have emerged as the two dominant operating system designs. There have also been some open-source operating systems designed for traditional computers as alternatives to Microsoft or Apple licensed operating systems. These include Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and GNU.

There are a lot of details involved in computer OS design, but one prominent fact is that computer operating systems were not really designed for mobile use over wireless networks. Instead, they evolved, and were understood, as part of a wired system, most commonly, as parts of a single physical machine. As such, developers and engineers focused on a lot of technical specifics related to items like boot protocols, program threads, multiple process handling, CPU operation, and other elements of the traditional OS.

The mobile operating system is a newer concept. In many ways, the mobile OS has built on what the computer OS has accomplished. In fact, many modern developers working with mobile operating systems tend to take the traditional elements of computer operating systems largely for granted as they focus on newer issues like responsive design, consistent network access, and other elements of providing software applications used across diverse wireless environments.

For a look at the difference between mobile and computer operating systems, take a look at how a new smartphone operating system works differently from a traditional Windows XP or 2000 OS. Or take a look at the iOS operating system used on the iPhone compared to the operating system for a traditional Apple computer or even a newer Apple laptop. What you’ll find is that while many of the Apple operating system elements are branded and visually created in the same way, when you get down below to the technical areas of the operating system, mobile operating systems are quite different because they are designed to work on different devices and do different things.

Techopedia Staff

At Techopedia, we aim to provide insight and inspiration to IT professionals, technology decision-makers and anyone else who is proud to be called a geek. From defining complex tech jargon in our dictionary, to exploring the latest trend in our articles or providing in-depth coverage of a topic in our tutorials, our goal is to help you better understand technology - and, we hope, make better decisions as a result.