Software is a program that enables a computer to perform a specific task, as opposed to the physical components of the system (hardware). This includes application software such as a word processor, which enables a user to perform a task, and system software such as an operating system, which enables other software to run properly, by interfacing with hardware and with other software. Software also acts as an interface between the hardware like processor(s) and user(s).
Middleware sits "in the middle" between application software that may be working on different operating systems. It is similar to the middle layer of a three-tier single system architecture, except that it is stretched across multiple systems or applications. Examples include EAI software, telecommunications software, transaction monitors, and messaging-and-queueing software.
The distinction between operating system and middleware functionality is, to some extent, arbitrary. While core kernel functionality can only be provided by the operating system itself, some functionality previously provided by separately sold middleware is now integrated in operating systems. A typical example is the TCP/IP stack for telecommunications, nowadays included in virtually every operating system.