Guy’s Ezine 155 – Where is the future? Windows 8 or Cloud 9!
The purpose of this article is to encourage you to think about the mid-term future for computing in general, and the desktop in particular. Two of the contenders for desktop champion are Microsoft’s Windows 8, and ‘Cloud Computing’.
The World Champion Desktop Contenders
So what is Windows 8 like? In a nutshell it will be more like Vista 2 than a brand new system. Vista’s core will get a maintenance upgrade, meanwhile Microsoft will do what they do best, and give the user an even slicker GUI experience, for example more information in the Taskbar area. Actually, Windows 8 is a curious name when its operating system number will be 6.1 (Vista’s is 6.0).
What of ‘Cloud Computing’? The model of a thin desktop client front-end, with both applications and data stored on the server back-end, is not new. What ‘Cloud Computing’ does is take the concept a stage further by moving the server to the internet. Google Docs would be a prototype for this type of internet computing. Obvious resistance to this model would come from security and availability concerns, especially for sensitive data.
Are We at a Country Cross-roads or a Motorway Turnpike?
In computing we periodically have to make decision on which operating systems, applications and browser to keep, and which to upgrade.
I have a feeling that with Vista stalling, desktop computing is heading for a change of direction. Will the 90% who use a Windows operating system upgrade to Windows 8, or will the majority switch to some sort of Cloud Technology such as Google Docs. Furthermore, there are more alternatives, for instance, XP users could jump the Microsoft ship and embrace the Apple Mac or Linux operating system.
It’s hard to get a ‘handle’ on future desktop trends as there seems to be an unusually large number of options. If I used my post-bag as a bellwether I would deduce that 25% of people use Apple Macs, 10% Linux and 60% of surfers browse with Mozilla. The true figures are nearer 9%, 1% and 20% respectively.
Then there is Vista. Those who had no old hardware and bought a new desktop machine, which was certified for Vista, seem to be very quiet. Perhaps Vista with SP1 actually works for them as Microsoft intended. For those who have had wrinkles or frustrations with Vista find that Windows 8 finally delivers all the features that Vista promised.
Those who tried to install 64-bit Vista on an old laptop, and then ran all manner of legacy of hardware have been disappointed and extremely vocal. In conclusion, there have been curious glitches with certain installations of Vista and these have been hyped to the extent that Vista (1) will probably never be loved. Hence Microsoft will probably avoid calling Windows 8 Vista 2, just as they did not name Windows 2000’s successor Windows 2002, instead they called it XP.
There are often two contrasting factors which arise when a system such as Vista turns out to be less than perfect. First of all, user put on their rose-tinted glasses and proclaim how wonderful XP was, neatly glossing over its security flaws.
Meanwhile in the other camp, Microsoft’s spin doctors are second to none. Initially they go into denial that there is anything wrong with Vista. However, as soon as they have their new baby, Windows 8, they suddenly open up about the deficiencies of the previous Vista operating system, even though we are only talking about the difference between Windows 6.0 v 6.1.
Microsoft’s Range of Strategies
If ‘Cloud Computing’ took-off, then Microsoft could develop an offering similar to Terminal Services, except that the server is on the internet not on the local network. I therefore read with interest that in the up-coming R2 version of Server 2008, Terminal Services has been renamed Remote Desktop Services.
Then there is a separate Microsoft project called Midori. The plan is to develop a brand-new operating system geared to running all sorts of application across the internet. It strikes me Microsoft are in a similar situation to when Bill Gates suddenly realized the internet was taking off and Microsoft needed a browser to challenge Netscape.
Incidentally, I ask myself these questions about the future of computing not because I like to follow the pack, more because I want to make the correct career decision. Should I continue to develop Microsoft server and desktop skills, or should I learn about Cloud Technology? See more on cloud computing.
Snippets, Which May Affect Future Trends Marginally
Office 2007. An Access developer confided to me: ‘While I use the 2007 version myself, I don’t recommend it to my customers’. An Excel macro writer told me the exact same thing about Excel 2007, ‘Too many wrinkles for my customer, best to stick with proven Office 2003 interface and menu structure that they know’. These snippets lead me to wonder, ‘Is Office 2007 (or Office 2003) the end of the line for what is achievable with Access, Excel and Word?’ If so then this would reduce Microsoft’s revenues and could re-direct the efforts of the developers in to cloud technology. Mind you, I thought that Microsoft could not improve upon Office 2000, but they did.
Another reason to favour the cloud solution maybe the financial climate, after a few quarters of recession, a cheaper, ‘thinner’ desktop maybe what people want, and what becomes fashionable.
In addition to Google, other companies are already offering a version of cloud or virtual computing, for example the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) has 50 or more companies signed up. Businesses can also utilize cloud security with Trend Micro that can be combined with a third party provider to make setting up a corporate-wide network a simple two-step process.
A whacky reason to give the Cloud Computing idea serious thought comes from the study of the evolution of life forms. Nature always chooses a system with a central nucleus and a central brain, rather than a distributed nerve system. If technology truly mimics nature then this means that centralized computing is our destiny. To stretch the analogy even further could cloud computing be like Archaeopteryx? Only instead of being a lizard that decided to fly, ‘Cloud Computing’ would be an operating system that soared on the internet.
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Update on Cloud Computing
In July 2009 only 60% of senior IT managers have a clear idea of what cloud computing involves. The confusion surrounds whether cloud computing means just internet based computing, or an outsourced and managed system. Most managers assumed that it would be a combination of the two. See more on Versionone’s document management review.
The main point of assimilating information about computing in general and Windows 8 (Vista 2) in particular is to help make a decision.
Sticking with XP was a winning move in 2007 and not a bad decision in 2008. Dodging an upgrade saved time and money, especially with laptops. However this do nothing, or Luddite approach cannot win long term. There will come a time when upgrading XP is the best choice. Where do you go? Windows 8, Apple Mac, Linux, or wait for Cloud technology to take off.
Will and Guy’s Humour
This week Will and Guy bring youfunny thanksgiving turkeys.