Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
n. (context software English) Software that controls the allocation and usage of hardware resources such as memory, CPU time, disk space, and input and output devices.
n. (computer science) software that controls the execution of computer programs and may provide various services [syn: OS]
An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides common services for computer programs. The operating system is a component of the system software in a computer system. Application programs usually require an operating system to function.
Time-sharing operating systems schedule tasks for efficient use of the system and may also include accounting software for cost allocation of processor time, mass storage, printing, and other resources.
For hardware functions such as input and output and memory allocation, the operating system acts as an intermediary between programs and the computer hardware, although the application code is usually executed directly by the hardware and frequently makes system calls to an OS function or is interrupted by it. Operating systems are found on many devices that contain a computer from cellular phones and video game consoles to web servers and supercomputers.
Examples of popular desktop operating systems include Apple OS X, Linux and its variants, and Microsoft Windows. So-called mobile operating systems include Android and iOS. Other classes of operating systems, such as real-time (RTOS), also exist.