So, what is a cloud OS anyway?

red question mark 165419798
Credit: Thinkstock

I've written a few times about Microsoft purportedly creating a "cloud OS," but since then, a few people have pushed me to explain what exactly a cloud OS is, and it became clear that pretty much everyone has their own idea of it.

I see it as an OS where cloud storage and apps are on your machine just like a C: drive and installed apps. OneDrive will look to your computer, tablet or smartphone just like a local device. Your apps will move with you from PC to PC, so if you log onto another PC other than the one you use, your licensed apps will all show up.

See also: New evidence that Microsoft is preparing a cloud-based Windows OS

It couldn't, or shouldn't be a case of having a basic install on the PC and the rest of the OS is pulled down to your PC. That might work inside a network, but for consumers, that would clog the Internet even worse than YouTube and Netflix have already done.

So I decided to ask a few analysts who follow these sorts of things. Mike Cherry at Directions on Microsoft said he thinks it will be a bit of a throwback to the mainframe days, or like a VDI terminal, where the desktop actually runs on a server. "The easiest way to do this is just do a terminal services session-based thing that looks like your OS. Or, Microsoft could do a massive, huge Azure-scale desktop infrastructure," he said.

Cherry said he believes Microsoft's vision going forward is less and less about software on the local device. The more that is hosted in a data center, the easier it is to move from device to device and have the same experience.

Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies thinks people have gotten carried away with the cloud concept, since cloud in the end is simply a large server farm, just like we had in the pre-cloud days.

"What will make it unique is integration with on-premises stuff. You have to be able to virtualize your apps and move instances of them up and down to the cloud. Maybe that's it," he said.

To some degree, that is about to take place under Microsoft’s new deal with Salesforce. There will be a Salesforce1 app for Windows and Windows Phone 8.1, integration between Salesforce and Office 365 ,and some form of Salesforce/Outlook integration.

So, what IS a cloud OS? Your definition is as good as mine.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10