Windows web OS: too soon to forecast clouds or fog

Clouds_320Considering my affinity for computing on the web, you’d think I would have written something by now about the “Windows Cloud OS” that’s expected within the next month. Some of you have sent me e-mails asking why I haven’t. The problem is that the cloud looks more like fog right now. There simply aren’t enough details available to make me sit up and take notice. And more importantly, like so many prior efforts, I’m wondering what overlap there is between this project and others, such as Live Mesh. I thought Live Mesh was intended to be a platform, not just a synchronization tool. Yet, the Windows Cloud OS will clearly be an online platform as well.

Harry McCracken is wondering the same:

“To date, I haven’t heard anybody at Microsoft clearly articulate what Windows is as it moves beyond the desktop onto the Internet–not Ballmer, not Bill Gates, not chief software architect Ray Ozzie. And the most prominent form of Net-based Windows–the portfolio of Windows Live services–still just don’t have much of a relationship to Windows the OS.”

I’m not by any means dismissing this effort. While I won’t be attending PDC to hear the details firsthand, I am looking forward to what the effort is all about. Could it be a virtual operating system where the back-end runs on third-party servers and accessed through a browser? Will Silverlight-based applications be a part of it? Is it more of a true online Office suite that leverages Live Mesh? Will the platform work on well on lower-powered mobile devices?There are just too many questions and far too many missing details to make any kind of judgment, but one thing is certain to me: Microsoft can’t afford to play both sides of the fence. A focussed, major commitment to embracing the web has to embraced. Various Live services continue to evolve, but there’s still far too much of a divide between those web services and the desktop in my opinion. Perhaps the Windows Cloud OS will bridge that gap. While we wait: I’m curious as to what you think the Windows Cloud OS will be and more importantly, what you’d like it to be.

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