What are the differences between Software, Desktop and Mobile Applications?

Before we begin, all applications are software, but not all software is an application. For you to understand this better, take this example: all multi-story buildings are buildings, but not all buildings are multi-story buildings.

To add to that, we don’t have anything like software. If you want to quantify software, just say software packages or software programs. The plural form of software is software.

What, then, is software?

Before we go into details, let us first understand what a computer is. A computer is not limited to only desktops or laptops. Phones, tablets, or calculators are all classified as computers. A computer is any device that accepts input from a user, performs calculations on that input, and provides an output to the user.

Let’s say you want to call your friend Helen. As the phone is on the table or in your pocket, it cannot call Helen just because you are thinking of calling your friend Helen. Maybe future technologies will make this possible, but for now, let’s say that is not how to call Helen. You have to either use a voice command or dial Helen’s number (give the phone specific instructions).

When you dial Helen’s number, the phone accepts input from you (that is Helen’s number), performs calculations on that input (attempt to call Helen on his network), and provides an output to you( either successfully calls Helen or informs you that Helen’s phone is not reachable). This is how a computer (or phone) works, and it’s made possible by software. It is software that takes those commands or instructions and executes them.

Software plays a key role as a middleman between the user (you) and the computer’s hardware. In the absence of software, a user (you) essentially can’t perform any task (call Helen) on the phone. Even to power on or off your phone.

Software is of two types: system software and application software. System software runs the computer’s resources. The system software serves as a platform for running the application software (desktop and mobile applications). On the other hand, application software (desktop and mobile applications) is meant to enable the user to carry out some specific set of tasks or functions.

Desktop and Mobile Applications

Most of us have used Microsoft Word before. Microsoft Word is a desktop application. This is because it is installed on a desktop and can run as a standalone computer program to perform a specific task by an end-user. But it is also software — an application software; however, it runs only on desktop. Desktop applications run on a specific operating system, such as Windows, Mac, or Linux. Mobile applications run on a mobile device such as a phone, tablet, or smart watch.