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User Experience - Desktop OS vs. Embedded OS
By Chris De Herrera, Editor
Posted 01/09/11

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After attending CES 2011 this year, I really noticed that hardware manufacturers and users are really flocking to the latest tablet computers that use embedded operating systems.  This article compares the featuers and functuons of desktop and embedded operating systems so users can understand the differences between the two different operating systems..

What is a Desktop Operating System?

For the purposes of this article, i am defining a desktop operating system as being Windows or Mac OS.  These two oses make up the majority of desktop and laptop operating systems that are in use today.  Desktop Operating Systems are much larger and more feature rich than their Embedded OS counterparts.

What is an Embedded Operating System?

An Embedded Operating System is designed to run on a smaller device and requires a smaller footprint for storage, cpu, and ram than a Desktop Operating System.  Examples of embeded operating systems include Apple's IOS, Google's Android, Palm's WebOS and RIM's OS.

Comparing Features

Feature Desktop OS Embedded OS
Boot Time Boots slower Boots Faster
Sleep - Resume Takes longer to resume Instant On
Web Browsing Performance Takes longer to load websites Takes shorter to load websites
Run applications Takes longer to run applications Takes shorter to run applications
Types of Storage Most use a hard disk however some use flash Most use flash
Cost of Applications Most applications are more expensive Most applications are cheaper
Cost of device Generally more expensive Generally less expensive
Application Features More application features Less application features
Ease of Use Harder to use Easier to use
Battery Life Generally shorter Generally longer
Size Generally larger Generally smaller
Storage More storage Less storage
Display Size Generally larger Generally smaller

Why Users Want Embedded OS based Devices

The prinmary reason that users want Embedded OS devices is that they have instant on and faster performance than Desktop OS based devices.  Clearly this is another example of where users want things to be faster than ever. This is especially true once a user experiences instant on and is able to take advantage of it by completing a task before they would be able to do it with a Desktop OS.  Also, the Embedded OS allows users to have a smaller, more portable package which is also faster and easier to use wth longer battery life.   So when a user needs to perform a more complex task, they will switch to using a Desktop OS to complete it.


Whith the key advantage of being able to complete tasks more efficiently, users are focusing on tablet computers that use the Embedded OS.   While I still see the need to use desktop OS devices, I see these being used when more complex features and functions are required.  So I expect that we will see more and more uses for devices with an Embedded OS while still leaning on Desktop OS devices.

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