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Whither the Old OS?

Discussion of the market for operating systems may soon sound as quaint as talk about the horse and buggy. If its massive promise comes to fruition, Software as a Service could render the OS obsolete.

"The new battle is browsers -- that's where things are going to be operating, not at your OS hardware level," says Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO and chief security architect at Comodo Group Inc., a security applications vendor.

Microsoft has been plugging its cloud computing plans -- dubbed "Software plus Services" -- heavily this year. While OSes and the Office suite still generate the bulk of Redmond's revenues, it was Microsoft itself that took the first step toward making the OS a commodity, says Paul DeGroot, senior analyst with Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash.

"When Microsoft put Internet Explorer into every copy of Windows, they did a very sweet thing for developers," DeGroot explains. "Any time [developers] wanted to develop an app, [they] developed an app that runs on a Web server and that users can access with their browser. That's a very strong trend."

So how much longer will the OS live, or at least serve as a driver of competition rather than a commodity? A while longer, probably, but observers already see the end of the OS as we know it.

Abdulhayoglu expresses an even stronger sentiment. "The OS is totally irrelevant," he says. "What we're waiting on is for the connectivity to catch on. As soon as the connectivity catches on, we're going to see everything in the cloud."

About the Author

Lee Pender is the executive features editor of Redmond magazine. You can reach him at lpender@redmondmag.com or follow him on Twitter.

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