I would like to express what is in MY OPINION the best operating system ever.
First what are my parameters? The best OS should be powerful, compatible with as many hardware devices as possible, and, of course, extremely stable. This OS should be very flexible be user friendly in accessing all these powerful features.
So what are the nominees? Lets see: BeOS (QNX too)
This is a good one but so few programs not mention losing points on backward compatiblity and not support very many hardware devices. It's a shame Apple killed this one as it was one of the best OS's ever. Just not the best.
Apple Macintosh to OS 9 and seperately OS X
I'm generally not a big Mac user I will concede it is extremely easy to learn pretty much everything you need to do. It's very intuitive. But Mac (to OS 9) doesn't have enough software. And so I hear some of the stability has started to suffer.
Now seperately...OS X. I haven't used this one. At all. I hear it's stable. Very little software though. And backwards compatiblity is quite bad. I read about Mac fans complaining about it all the time.
So not any version of Mac...
Amiga, Atari ST, Something called GeOS, OS/2, Windows pre-Win95...
Yeah ok whatever. These are dead so I'm not counting them. Got it? If it doesn't exist it's not the best, obviously.
Linux w/X-Windows: KDE/GNOME/etc.
Ok these are improving seemingly every other week by leaps and bounds. But last I checked I still had to "mount" my floppy manually and unmount it when I was done. Same with CD-ROMs. Not mention dealing with the "fstab" and something called "proc". And a lot of times thing seem to just not work. I'd much rather have something just work on the first try with a minimum of hassles. Is that too much to ask? So though it may be controversial: Linux/X-Windows - not the best OS ever.
Then we have the MS Windows line
Win9x (Windows from 95 to Me) This one gets lots of points for things like backwards capatibility in software and the incredible large ranging variety of supported hardware. It's also much more flexible in ways few even experts know about (using an "alternative shell" is insanely easy to setup). But loses on the stability front. Very, very easy to lock up the system. One program fails and you have to reboot. So not the best OS ever.
Finally we come to the MS Windows version called NT. This includes NT 4 (only with service pack 6), Windows 2000 and XP
Now NT is going to actually score quite high on the list. Not "the" list. My list. Most peolpe seem to regard NT 4 with quite a lot of hostility. But I'm convinced they're thinking of the initial releases of the OS. Which is quite bad, yes. But with MS Internet Explorer and service pack 6 it's incredible. An amazing assortment of software is compatible. I'd estimate it will run something like 98% of the Win9x software non-game titles. And it is also REALLY stable. When you compare 9x to it, well 9x seems like a tonka toy compared to a real truck to me. It's just hard to compare. It also beneifits from having much of the features so beloved by UNIX fans and has many UNIX utilities ported over to it. But this one still loses out from a lack of support for a lot of hardware, USB, and any DirectX support after version 5.
Then there's Windows NT 5.1 (a.k.a. XP)
Now this I'm going to say is a close second place. Very close. An incredible amount of both stability, power, and binary compatibility. All the benefits of the 9x line while maintaining all the features of NT. The compatiblity wizard also helps it along if you just have to get the old copy of Fallout to work. Unfortunately not all programs work even with the compatiblity wizard. Important programs like ez cd creator version 4 (i'd pay $100 for a new version? hah!). So though very close, not the best OS ever.
So where does this leave us?
Windows 2000...I choose you
I know this would cause so many people to fall out of their chairs. But by my criteria of being a real OS, not dead, maximum binary compatibilty, backwards compatiblity AND USB and directx. Well mostly directx, I guess some games still don't run on it. But if I had the choice of any OS in existance that's what I would choose. I actually know a former Linux user who switched to Windows 2000. Still maintaining the stability of NT 4 while still adding all the things I would wish NT would have. It really is the perfect OS.
Now some may make arguments with this assessment. No, I don't want to hear about the Mac's many windows emulators. Nor do I care for "Lindows" or Windows binary compatiblity via Wine. The simple fact is Linux/X-Windows isn't user-friendly enough nor does it have enough software. And Mac (X), though great, also a lack of new software, games, wide hardware support, and backward compatiblity on the binary side.
Some still may disagree. Not like I care. This just seems the answer to me.
After all this it my sound funny to hear that I am actually using XP right now. This is simply because I don't have windows 2000. Or I would be using it. And XP does actually have one or two things 2k didn't. XP is still second place in my book though. Just too much sacrafice on the stability side. And yes I have the service pack.