Computer software is the combination of programmes and applications which interface with the physical components of the computer, 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 programmes, which enable the user to perform actual specific tasks, e.g. typing.An operating system is the software behind all of the system and application management; it is responsible for organising and controlling how each of the systems interface with each other (basically the smooth running of every programme), for example, allocating the appropriate amount of memory in accordance with which programmes 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 won 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 power and capabilities of the operating system.Software is constantly being up dated and new versions being released, so much so that current systems can become out of date within months – it is a very fast moving and fast evolving area of industry. Microsoft have 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 programmes. For example, Windows Media Player 11 is included in the package and has undergone a major revamp; including user interfacing, new search capabilities, and the facility too 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 programme 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 setup 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.
For quite a while now, the computer industry has been trying to bring computer technology into more and more different parts of the home. While the benefits to having access to a home computer in every room of the house can be pretty obvious, consumers have largely rejected technology that would do such a thing. This can be best seen in the repeated pushes (and failures) by the computer industry to make the home computer part of the home entertainment system. In the past, these computers were basically designed to use the living room TV set, instead of a conventional computer monitor- to display their desktops and graphics. The home stereo system would also act as the computer’s speakers, and the keyboard and mouse would connect to the computer wirelessly. The general idea was that the user of such a system would be able to surf the Internet, write email, and get work done all from the comfort of his or her favorite couch or easy chair. Unfortunately, the idea of making the PC part of the home entertainment center hasn’t really caught on among mainstream consumers despite the repeated efforts of the computer industry.Two technologies that are reaching their maturity are likely to change this situation though. One is the increasing capacity of computer systems to handle video and the other is the increasing capacity of networks to transmit the large amounts of data that make up video. Wireless home networks are already popular in many homes and new technology is making it increasingly feasible to transmit video over wireless networks.There are a number of devices that are springing up to take advantage of this new found ability to transmit video wirelessly in order to make it- along with other types of media- accessible throughout the house. One of these devices is the Touchsmart PC from Hewlett Packard. The dominating feature of this device is a 19 inch touch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio that will detect touch and allow users to point directly to the icons and menus that they want to access. In a sense the entire screen is like a huge version of the pointer pad on a laptop computer. The Touchsmart PC also comes with a separate mouse and a keyboard that are stored beneath the screen when not in use, but are both wireless to that they can be taken across the room to be used.The main idea of the the Touchsmart PC is that it will be used in higher traffic areas of the house like the kitchen. That way when members of the family are in the kitchen to cook or eat a meal they’ll be able to quickly and easily access video, music, digital photos, or the Internet. Some of this media could be stored on the Touchsmart PC’s hard drive, accessed from another computer’s hard drive (like possibly HP’s media vault), or of course the Internet. With a price tag of almost $1800 the Touchsmart PC may be a tough sell as a device for most families to buy just as a convenience.This type of machine, along with others like it that will surely be coming soon, will push the limits of how and where people will enjoy different types of media in their homes in the near future.