How Important is an Operating System?

With the imminent release of Windows 8 I find myself asking this same question, I’ve been asking it for as long as I’ve been involved with computers in education.

I loved RiscOS and argued for it’s use in education many times.  The counter argument was always about what pupils used at home and will use at work.  With minor OS changes happening every year or two and major changes happening every 5 years or so it is really a question much for secondary schools and I feel that the imperative possibly changes as pupils move closer to leaving age.

The Under17 car club uses race tracks and disused airfields to teach children how to drive, its good but it isn’t the real road.  With the current disapplication of ICT and the increased focus on the principles of computers (understanding how and why they work) I wonder if this is an argument for or against a particular OS.

Windows currently has around 80% of market share, MacOS has around 6%, Linux has 1%.  iPad and iPhone have 6% as well. 

My conclusion – I’m not sure it matters overall and certainly not for the big picture of teaching and learning.  When we start to think about ICT and computer science then maybe it matters more and Windows would HAVE to be part of the mix.  School wide the OS is (probably) almost irrelevant – specifically for ICT maybe windows is more important.

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