This Post is about nothing else as the future of Operating Systems. Heavy announcement, I know ;-). But with the rise of the Cloud and the new fashionate term "Software-as-a-Service", we are at the beginning of a fundamental change of technology.
Further I will discuss the big 3 Players in the Operating System World, Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS, Linux and the dawn of Chrome OS, including the advantages of the Cloud itself and probably a small view on what applications are going to be important with the rise of the Cloud (That word already lost all its sense to me...)
The Big 3 starting with Microsoft, who is in an interesting Position. They are the clear market leader in the Operating System market and will probably stay the leader for quite a while, but they will inevitably lose some of their market share to competitors. Why that? Because the Windows System IS so popular, so wide spread and that for such a long time. The same, by the way, is true for Windows Mobile as well. Windows is carrying such a huge backpack with legacy code and backwards compatibility. The problem for them is, they cannot just start something new. They cannot tear down everything and make a brand new start. Just think if Microsoft announces that their new Operating System Windows 8 will not be backwards compatible with any of the older Versions (not Win 7, not Win Vista and not Win XP). What will happen? Their stock price will drop quite close to 0 overnight if they make such an official announcement. They are bound to their customers, not so much to private users, but to all the Companies that have Windows running (and thats quite a few).
The development of the Windows Azure Wave will probably bring some fresh wind into Windows (gosh, am I poetic...). Windows Azure Wave seems to be a tackle to Googles Chrome OS, as Microsoft announced that it will be more or less their Cloud OS for which applications can be programmable using the .NET platform. What Microsoft, in my humble opinion, has to do with Azure is, integrating into Windows as soon as possible and as good and smooth as possible. I don't think that it will be a good way to place Azure Wave as an own product next to Windows. The goal must be to merge them into one System within the next, lets say 3, full Windows Releases.
Due to the fact that more and more applications will take their way to the cloud (with the obvious advantages of being everywhere available and the obvious disadvantage of having your secret data lying on some Serverfarm somewhere nowhere), Windows will inevitably loose market share, unless they are doing the right things with the Azure Wave. They will suffer from the biggest losses on the private consumer side. More and more people will start buying Netbooks with Chrome OS or a Linux Distro. Companies will stay on Windows, what may lead Microsoft to meet the IBM destiny.
Apple, I think, won't suffer too much from Cloud Operating Systems too much. Macs and Macbooks are the premium-product class and I don't think Apple will do much to participate in lower cost classes with their Desktop - PCs and their Notebooks. Apple also has the advantage that they are more an end-user product, There are hardly any Companies that are using Mac OS as their main Operating System. But Apple also has to be careful with radical changes, as their products are, thanks to iPod and iPhone, quite widespread now and now also technically unsavier Users are now using Apples products.
Linux, my dear child, Linux, how are we all hoping for your rise and how are we all knowing that your rise, at least on desktop PCs and Notebooks, will never take really place. Their are many reasons for that and I will discuss some of them. I don't know where to start, so all reasons are in no particular order. First some words pro Linux: I like Linux, I have openSUSE running on one partition of my Notebook, and yes I admit, I really, really like it. It's great for Techies like me, you can do almost everything on a Linux System and I simply like using the mighty, mighty Shell.
Alright now to the dark side of the moon. There are countless different distributions that are offering Linux. Why that? There's only ONE company that is offering Windows and there is only ONE company that is offering Mac OS, but there are 124 that are offering Linux. How will a normal User who only wants to surf the Web, write Mails and do some scribble-scrabble in Spreadsheets and Documents know what to choose? That leads me direct to the next 2 points: There is no real Office Package standard in the Distros. OpenOffice more or less is a standard and also should be the ONE AND ONLY standard, but there is still the old stuff from the 2 different desktop engines on every Distro. Why?? Who needs 3 different Word Processors??
And wait, did I say 2 desktop engines? You have KDE and Gnome and you can choose between them. Its fun for people like me, weighing up the now not existent differences and then choosing one (I chose Gnome by the way, because it was simply cooler looking and faster at the time I set up my Linux). Hey, most normal Users don't even know what a damn desktop engine is, so why let them choose? That's useless, they are only confused. Next thing marketing. Why would ever any standard User install a different OS from that, that is running? Hey Mr. Shuttleworth and Mr. Novell CEO, if you really want to spread your Linux Distros, make some deals with those guys that build the PC's as Microsoft is doing. It's a really effective way to force Users to their luck.
The final problem is probably that the slim and fast Linux Kernel is nowadays a huge, ugly and unmaintainable Moloch. There's another problem, too many people who were working on Linux since the 80s are still leading the Development and still working on Linux with the same Tools and the same attitude, but hey, the world changed. Those guys did a fantastic job and Linux wouldn't be Linux without them, but they simply need to let it go. Linux hasn't so many Users, so there is the chance to make a complete new start without causing too many problems.
Now to Chrome OS. I said it before, and I say it again, announcing an OS is NOT innovative but I think Google will make a fantastic job on Chrome OS. Every day I am more convinced that this is going to be the perfect merging between the Web and the Desktop. Do you know why there is yet no G-Drive Online Storage from Google? Although Microsoft has its 25GB Windows Sky Drive and countless other Companies are offering Online Storage (including some really cool ones like Dropbox). G-Drive will be an essential part of and fully integrated into Chrome OS. Local storage no longer required. Everything else would make no sense.
I believe that Google is fundamentally changing the way Computers and the Web is used. Google won't take much market share from Apple, as Chrome OS is probably aimed at Netbooks, but they will steal Microsoft a part of their cake. The cool thing is, that every service Google offers is - of course - a potential Chrome OS Application. You are having your Desktop in the Web then, with a nice integration of all the Twitters and Facebooks we all like to use. No more Browser required (sorry Mozilla, but I still like you and will keep you on Mac OS). I know I sound like a cheap advertiser of Chrome OS (which I am not, otherwise I wouldn't write a Blog that no one is reading), but with Chrome OS the Desktop and the Web will be one and the same things, the borders between them are not recognisable any longer.
So to end this pretty long Post, what cool stuff will we have running in the Cloud? First, when I store my stuff in the Cloud, I want it to be safe, so Crypto Services will be essential (I hope Chrome will have that). The automatically integrated Crypto Service needs obviously be fast and safe. Next, I want to stream my music and my videos direct onto my mobile devices or my other Notebooks and PCs I use. So, there's already a service (currently invitation-only) put.io which seems to be a really hot thing. When you have only Apps on a device that is Online all the time (like the iPhone), there will be many other changes, where (useful) location based (Notebook-)Services will only be the beginning.
Final word, if you wonder why this Post is named, "The Unix Inheritance", I have to answer that I wanted to write about something entirely different first, but kept the Robert Ludlum like title (the title is still true in a broader sense, though) ;-)