Windows 8 – the last one?

Will Windows 8 be the last client operating system out of Redmond? Probably not, but we need to ask ourselves which value a new client operating system (OS) version can bring to the desktop.

Up to today, functionality was required on the desktop, because the desktop was the platform for all the various applications. Each new operating system version brought new features and enabled us, the users, to do things we couldn’t do with an older version.

But, things have changed.

Now, more and more applications are moving away from the desktop. We still use a desktop to access applications by using a web browser and using web applications instead of locally installed ones (Gmail, for example, taught us that a local email client is no longer required). So, the desktop itself becomes more and more a platform for our preferred Internet browser. And in this role, the functionality of the operating system gets more and more unimportant.

But if additional operating system features are of no value any more, what motivation do users have to upgrade to the next OS version? We see this problem already on the enterprise level today. The main reason for most companies to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 is the simple fact that support for Windows XP will end in 2014 – and not all the new features of Windows 7.

So, how will the future look? Well, Google does give us an outlook with Chrome OS, an operating system, not based on Windows, that has a main task of running a web browser with the best possible performance. By moving functionality to the web, the capabilities of the web become more important. No wonder that HTML 5 addresses a lot of these new requirements. HTML 5 not only enables a new kind of user experience for web applications, it also provides a foundation for new technologies like AppBlast to bring traditional desktop applications to the web.

OK, but what will Redmond do?

Well, they are reaching out in other areas. It seems that Microsoft understood very well the challenge. Microsoft’s focus moves away from the traditional PC toward new devices such as tablets and smartphones. Windows 8 is designed more for tablets than it is for PCs; and Windows Phone 7 is a pure smartphone OS.

Coming back to our original question will Windows 8 be that last operating system from Microsoft? Definitely not, but whether it is the last one for PCs, I don’t know…