sponsored by
OSdata.com: hardware-software integration 


Hardware-Software Integration

    Almost everything about computers eventually comes down to trade-offs about what is most important. A computer system consists of both hardware and software. A key recurring question is how well are the software and hardware integrated. The choice here is between close integration of hardware and software versus the availability of a wide number of choices of vendors.

    “Although money is the bottom line for you as a manager, given the complex set of factors … a technically superior combination of server hardware and operating systems could prove to be less expensive in the long run.” —“Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX”w51


OSdata.com is used in more than 300 colleges and universities around the world

Find out how to get similar high web traffic and search engine placement.

classes of integration

     Proprietary, single processor operating systems offer the greatest potential for close integration of hardware and software. This occurs with Macintosh OS X, Mac OS X Server, Macintosh, Solaris, IRIX, Rhapsody/PowerPC, VMS, and OpenVMS.

     Operating systems that run on a wide variety of processors offer the greatest variety of machines. This occurs with UNIX (see list in the next paragraph) and Windows NT.

     UNIX systems consist of some common shared ideas and individual enhancements of UNIX unique to a particular version of UNIX. UNIX systems include AIX, BSDi, Digital UNIX, FreeBSD, GNU Hurd, LINUX, HP-UX, IRIX, Macintosh OS X, Mac OS X Server, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Pyramid, Rhapsody, SCO, Solaris, Sun-OS, and ULTRIX.

     There are operating systems that are single processor but the organization that makes the operating system is a different organization than the one that makes the hardware. This occurs with OS/2, Windows 98, Windows 95, Windows 3.1, MS-DOS, and PC-DOS-2000.

     There are operating systems that run on more than one processor, but on one of the processors, the same organization makes both the hardware and operating system, allowing for the possibility of the “best of both worlds”. This occurs with Rhapsody (Apple-PowerPC), Solaris (Sun-SPARC), NeXT (NeXT-68040), and BeOS (Be-PowerPC).

NeXTCube BeBox iMac

     There are operating systems that run native on one processor but have open system libraries that allows software developed for the operating system to run on top of other operating systems. This occurs with Rhapsody Run-Time Library for Windows.


    “You cannot really separate the O/S, from the hardware. You must consider the total solution in product evaluation. IBM, HP, SUN, and the others all have a line of systems spanning single-user machines to systems that handle thousands of users. Factor in various high-availability hardware, binary compatibility among the families, and so on, and you have even more permutations. Add other exotics such as HP’s workstations running a different variant of HP-UX then their servers… and you have a real mess.”
    “It is a fact of life that application vendors have first, second, and third tier platforms for the software they write. The differences in bugs, performance, and features/revision levels need to be considered when choosing the HARDWARE platform. Also the same application can run quite differently on different platforms, even though they [the platforms] have the same speeds & feeds on performance. That is because optimization levels differ, and sometimes hardware vendors assist software vendors in tuning applications for their particular environments.” —David A. Lethee70

    “It takes more than a graphical user interface to make a computer easy to use. It takes tight integration between software and hardware.” —Christian Greenw31

    “The Mac is still more elegant and stylish, still more tightly integrated, with better links between software and hardware, because a single company makes both the computer and operating system.” —The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 1995w32

    “Windows 95 is an ‘edifice of bailing wire,chewing gum and prayer.’ ” —The New York Times, August 2, 1995w32

Picture showing how Macintosh hardware & software are integrated

Macintosh hardware and software work together (left). With Windows, the user has to make sure all of the pieces work together (right).w32

     “Because Apple makes both the hardware and the operating system, the two work together easily—when a change is made at the hardware level, the software automatically recognizes it and acts accordingly. In the PC world, Microsoft develops Windows and many different manufacturers make the hardware systems. So the software and hardware don’t always work well together.” —Christian Greenw32

     “That Macintosh computers have so many advantages over PCs running Windows 95 should come as no surprise. While Microsoft has spent years trying to imitate the interface and duplicate the features pioneered on the Macintosh in the 1980s, Apple has taken the Macintosh to the next generation of personal computing. This next generation of personal computing, based on RISC processors and component software, means that Macintosh computers bring you more advanced features than PCs running Windows 95, and that those features are easier to use on Macintosh systems.

    A 10-year head start is only one reason why Macintosh computers have the edge on PCs running Windows 95. The other reason is that Apple is the only major personal computer company to craft both the hardware and operating system software—together. That makes it easier for Macintosh users to start using new features.” —Apple Computersw49

    Microsoft claims that “Windows 95 supports one-third more device drivers than does Windows NT Workstation (approximately 1,000 more drivers)… However, certain types of devices, such as video, audio, and PCMCIA are areas where Windows NT Workstation support falls short of Windows 95.” According to ZDNet’s Ed Bott, Microsoft’s conclusions are correct, but its numbers are false. Bott compared the official Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 Hardware Compatibility Lists (HCL) and found 1,500 more entries on the Windows 95 HCL than on the Nt 4.0 HCL. But he also discovered that Microsoft had failed to keep the Windows 95 HCL up-to-date, as shown by Microsoft listing “397 more printers and 565 more analog modems on the NT’s HCL”. Bott explained that “One in three x86 systems that work with Windows 95 sputters and dies when faced with NT. If you’ve got an older audio adapter or network card, you’ll probably need to replace it before you upgrade your operating system. NT experts won’t even think of purchasing hardware without checking the HCL. Now you know why.”w60

    “ Despite Mac OS X’s relative immaturity, it’s often more reliable at connecting to new add-ons.
    “Windows XP is better than earlier versions, but the Windows world is a cacophony of computer makes and models, making compatibility glitches inevitable. The frustration Windows users often experience is reflected in a clickable link I found in Windows XP’s online help: ‘I still can’t scan.’ ” —Jim Heid, “A Study in Contrasts”, Los Angeles Times, March 2002n4

geek humor

    n, “The parts of a computer system that can be kicked.” —Henri Karrenbeld

    “Software means never having to say you’re finished.” —J. D. Hildebrand in UNIX REVIEW

    “Q. How many computer programmers does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

    “None. That is a hardware problem.” —Kenneth D. Johnson

OSdata.com is used in more than 300 colleges and universities around the world

Read details here.

    A web site on dozens of operating systems simply can’t be maintained by one person. This is a cooperative effort. If you spot an error in fact, grammar, syntax, or spelling, or a broken link, or have additional information, commentary, or constructive criticism, please e-mail Milo. If you have any extra copies of docs, manuals, or other materials that can assist in accuracy and completeness, please send them to Milo, PO Box 1361, Tustin, CA, USA, 92781.

    Click here for our privacy policy.

previous page next page
previous page next page

home page

one level up

holistic issues

peer level

Made with Macintosh

    This web site handcrafted on Macintosh computers using Tom Bender’s Tex-Edit Plus and served using FreeBSD .

Viewable With Any Browser

    Names and logos of various OSs are trademarks of their respective owners.

    Copyright © 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 Milo

    Last Updated: March 4, 2002

    Created: June 7, 1998

previous page next page
previous page next page