What do you think constitutes the "OS"?

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by Sydde, Feb 10, 2011.

  1. Sydde macrumors 68020


    Aug 17, 2009
    In looking at some discussions in the iDevices areas of MRF, I periodically see people treating UI features as OS capabilities. This kind of perspective seems a little off to me. I have always thought of the OS as the primary things that abstract the hardware to the object code and UI features as sort of like API extensions (like the boundary between Foundation and AppKit).

    Obviously, it is a little fuzzy: some graphical features amount to hardware abstraction, and I think there are a few things in Foundation that could be seen as mostly UI support. Mainly, I perceive "OS" as being an extensible base upon which processes are laid, and the UI capabilities should generally not be seen as strictly OS.

    Granted, mobile devices tend to have less UI flexibility, so treating UI elements as OS might make more sense. As far as Apple is concerned, it is sort of a strange environment where everything is so very modular, but the updates arrive in large, indivisible chunks, and pulling the UI apart from the OS gies against the paradigm of the consistent user experience: it almost seems as though the beauty of modularity goes to waste here.

    Any thoughts? What is the definition of "OS"?
  2. lee1210 macrumors 68040


    Jan 10, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    My thoughts are that system-provided libraries that present a method for interacting with and accessing services of the operating system are very difficult to differentiate from part of the OS itself. It's really splitting hairs where the OS stops and where "application stuff" begins. For an OS to be usable your need libraries and applications, but they aren't necessarily part of the OS. bash is not part of OS X, Linux, etc. but without a shell it would be rough to get things done on systems without a UI (which wouldn't be "part" of the OS necessarily... or is it? Is explorer.exe part of the OS on Windows?).

    For iOS devices in the general case users access the system through the UI. You can't get an app in the app store that's command-line based. So to make an app you have to have a UI, and you have to use Cocoa Touch directly or indirectly to generate that UI. Is Cocoa Touch part of the OS? Probably not really, but it is a framework provided by the OS to expose critical services for interacting with the OS, so it probably may as well be as far as most people are concerned.

  3. subsonix macrumors 68040

    Feb 2, 2008
    The way I see it the UI is definately part of the OS. Mainly since this is the way we interact with the machine, thus it's the final abstraction meeting the user.
    This abstraction also let application developers treat UI elements as real entities, instead of say, writing directly to a screen buffer. The way I look at it, it's not that different from the filesystem giving abstractions like, files and folders.
  4. admanimal macrumors 68040

    Apr 22, 2005
    From a consumer's point of view, anything that comes on the OS X DVD is part of the OS, with the exception of most of the apps that people commonly see as their own thing (e.g. the iLife apps, Mail, etc.). There is no reason for the average person to have any more precise of a definition than that.

    The same thing goes for iOS- anything that comes on the device from the factory is part of the OS from the consumer's view.
  5. Sydde thread starter macrumors 68020


    Aug 17, 2009
    I guess I think too much like a greybeard. Time to got outside and ride my bike around for a while (which actually does help my debugging sometimes ;)).

Share This Page