Integrated comes from the Latin word "integer," which means whole. If something is integrated, it is designed to act or function as one unit. While the term has a singular meaning, it has many different applications within the IT world. It may describe a hardware component, a software program, or the combination of hardware and software.
An integrated hardware component may be combined with one or more other components. Many laptops, for instance, include integrated graphics chips that are built into the motherboard. In some cases, the graphics processor is integrated directly into the CPU. Integrating hardware components can save space and reduce manufacturing costs, but it may also limit the performance and upgradability of a computer system.
Integrated software often describes applications bundled with an operating system. This collection of programs, also called "system software," is designed to provide basic functionality with a consistent user experience. Both Windows and Macintosh operating systems come with several integrated programs and utilities, such as text editors, web browsers, and activity monitors.
Hardware and software may also be integrated together. A well-known example is the Macintosh platform, in which the software is integrated with the hardware, since both are developed by Apple. This is different than the Windows platform, in which Microsoft develops the software, but the hardware is produced by many different manufacturers. Apple's iOS is also integrated with its iPhone and iPad devices, which is different than the open Android platform.
Updated: November 21, 2014