Vista Hits a Cloud

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Vista’s less than enthusiastic market response may have more have more to do with the emergence of “cloud computing” as a paradigm shifting technology than any other factor.

The dominant model of stand-alone computing has been eroded by Google’s relentless release of cloud-type apps, starting with Gmail, then Google Docs, Picasa and now Chrome, Google’s browser entry. Microsoft is hitting back with Azure, a web-based development platform and is planning to spend something like $20 billion on 20 super data centers to provide web-based services.

While there has been much speculation concerning the possible development of a Google OS, Google has stated recently that is has no plans to enter the desktop OS business.

When you think about it – why bother?

As the computing model moves away from the stand-alone desktop/laptop to web-based apps, the OS becomes less the enabler and more the portal to the web. Pushing this to the extreme, the future OS will most likely be more browser-like than what we see today. Think about all your hardware drivers residing on the web rather than on your desktop and you get a sense of where things could go.

It also may not be too far fetched to link the explosion of netbooks such as the Dell Mini with the emergence of the cloud. My son who is a high-powered IT architect has ditched his large laptops for a Dell Mini and loves it – all his tools are in the network and he needs access, not raw computing power, for work.

Microsoft’s task is daunting – they have to change their business model from the desktop to the cloud. This involves a cultural overhaul that is not trivial but may be essential to keep the juggernaut rolling along. Many successful corporations have failed to adapt to changing market realities (eg, GM and Chrysler), in part because its easier to do things “our way” and in part because the corporation develops cultural antibodies to change.

Microsoft has deep pockets, but can this tanker change course with the crew it has? Time will tell.

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