Microsoft announced today they are again extending the product life of Windows XP Home, supporting it on ultra-low cost PCs to combat the Linux surge into that market. This revolving door of Windows end of life entensions is turning into one of those death row sagas, where the condemned continually waits for that fateful stay of execution call from the Governor. Most everyone will attribute Windows XP's extended lease on life due to the variety of complaints and seeming low value proposition of Vista to IT organizations being asked to bear the costs, enduring yet another Windows operating system upgrade. And uniqueness of the ultra-low cost PC market aside, everyone who says this is probably right about Windows XP... at least for the short term.
But think about the role the Windows desktop operating system plans in Microsoft's future... the Microsoft Mesh future. My research and analysis of Mesh leads me to believe Microsoft's is fundamentally shifting today's software products from traditional monolithic software applications, to web service enabled and virtualized application components that can live on the desktop (not installed into the OS, but as a virtualized application components running on the desktop), application elements streamed across the network, and/or applications which live entirely in the cloud -- all from the same product software, delivered to the end user in the form they want to use the software. The second element of Microsoft Mesh is about delivering these apps, and synchronizing your data so it is accessible from the cloud, on an unplugged desktop, a PDA phone or any other type of connected device.
In the world of Mesh, we don't need the kind of operating system Windows is today. I don't think Windows plays the same foundational role Microsoft's operating system has since Gates bought Vulcan to sell to IBM as DOS, catapulting Microsoft into the future we currently live in. I question if there even will be a Windows desktop operating system in the future, at least the kind of Windows operating system we have today, which is the bedrock for running Microsoft applications entangled with the Windows operating systems. What kind of operating system might Windows become?
A new kind of end user operating system - Windows Mesh OS
In the Microsoft Mesh environment of application virtualization and disaggregate application software, Window Mesh OS is really an OS platform hosting virtualized application components, web and SilverLight distributed applications, app component caching and distribution, and data synchronization. Gone are the monolithic software apps that statically consume disk space and entangle themselves in the Windows registry. Software becomes something the Windows Mesh OS pre-fetches, loads, caches and distributes based on what the application requires or whether the user wants to run the application locally, such as while unplugged, or simply accesses over the cloud through a web browser.
Windows Mesh OS also manages the local storage, replication, update synchronization, and version control management (aka Time Machine) of data, which the user may access from any number of computers or applications in the cloud. In this world, we become less attached to desktops because applications are no longer "installed" on a certain computer, but now are brought along with the data to the computer user, no matter which device it is the user might be using at that time.
Windows Server - The Server Operating System
The Windows OS running in the cloud, the OS running all of these hosted, SaaS, distributed and virtualized applications is still very much the workhorse kind of operating system we know today. But it has layered onto to it the application delivery capability to deliver software to the end user device, stream it over the cloud, or run the app all on servers within the cloud. Mesh synchronization also plays a huge role in the Windows Server operating system, synchronizing data stores and caches on local devices and storage. SharePoint, Exchange, Communications Server, our productivity software applications and many others gobble up the resources of cloud utility computing running Windows Server
When I'm All Wrong, It Won't Matter
The great thing about trying to predict the future is that while I'm very likely to be totally wrong, the time horizon is long enough for me to make new predictions, with the old ones fading from memory. And as I learn more, Ozzie peels the next layer of the Mesh onion, I go back and craft how the pieces fit together, my thoughts, ideas and views will change anyway. The challenging part of this is that I don't have any confidential or special access to go learn Microsoft's Mesh secrets. I have to put the pieces together while sitting in front of my Windows Vista Business laptop, making flawed predictions just like everyone else.
Like this? Here are some of Mitchell's recent posts.Google Scoops Microsoft-Delivers Mesh FirstHyper-V Leaves Linux Out In The Cold, Apple Fixes Open Source Vulnerabilities, What Microsoft Mesh Means To You, Apple iPhone Doomed To Failure. The Converging Network and SSAATY Security Podcast. Visit Microsoft Subnet for more news, blogs, opinion from around the Web. Sign up for the bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)