Whose Platform is it, Anyway?

Cloud computing, virtualization and mobile devices take the 'proprietary' out of computing--at least for the consumer. Just think of the possibilities.

Remember how you’re not supposed to ask for something unless you really want it? I predicted, a few short years ago, that we would cease to bind ourselves to a particular platform or operating system. Now that the future is here, I’m looking to it with a tinge of trepidation. I’m not sure that I’m ready for what’s to come: a world without local operating systems. And one where everything is virtual. Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX and will cease to have any significance to the end user. The end user will only see services or applications but not operating systems. For the end user, the operating system will not exist.

Operating systems will still exist, of course, on server hardware clouds and they’ll provide everything we need from a service standpoint. Localized operating systems (Desktops) will obsolete themselves from existence. Electronic devices will have enough storage for files and a minimal “boot to service” operating systemlet. The days of fat, local operating systems are numbered.

Waging OS Peace

Cloud computing, when it’s fully utilized, removes the need for a local operating system. I’m not talking about VDI. I’m just talking about enabling web browsers to function as operating portals. If any application that you use is web-based, why would you need or want a local operating system?

By removing the need for a client-side operating system, you effectively remove customer dependence on software vendor support. Only service providers will have customer to vendor relationships with software companies. End users will purchase services from a primary provider, a secondary provider or a broker provider. End users will have no real contact with operating system or even application vendors.

What will we do without those lovely OS wars to plague our forums and to waste countless hours on?

Declaration of Interdependence

What about the server side of things in this new client agnostic, desktop operating systemless world? For service providers, the story takes on a different flavor. Service providers setup services, applications and virtual systems for use by their end users or subscribers. They provide desirable technology to hungry consumers at a reasonable cost. Few providers, if any, have a preference as to server operating system.

They’re in business and that means giving customers what they want by any means necessary. If customers hunger for services best provided by Linux, that’s what they do. The same rule applies to Windows, Mac OS, Solaris or any other operating system available. Do you really care on which platform “Service X” runs? I don’t. I just want Service X there when I need it.

Saying that I don’t care on which platform my applications run, requires some explanation. Knowing that most cloud providers run their services on Linux, I don’t really have to fret over it. I know, however, that Windows virtual machines do exist on those Linux hosts. I, personally, am OK with that. Hardly any environment exists in a homogeneous operating system vacuum. The beauty of this scenario is that I’d rather have Windows as a guest than as a host. But, if I’m using remote applications and they work, do I really care? No, I really don’t.


Is it possible, through all this operating system agnosticism, that services will morph into some weird, commoditized applet hell? Will our beloved cloud computing environments house applets and craplets that do little more than replace the cheap trinkets that fast food workers pack into our kid’s meals? Imagine a time when Trade Show SWAG includes small electronic gadgets that run a single applet containing hundreds of vendor advertisements from the show. Vendors can track the locations of their gadgets to check their market penetration, update them at will via their developers and even send you regionalized messages. And, that’s just one application of such technology.

How about some advertising (electronic billboards) as you drive down the road using your TomTom on your way to the beach. How about some coupons that tap into your car’s navigation system as you pass a grocery store–”Avocados five for a dollar at Blarg Family Grocers. Turn left and go one-half mile to lower prices.” Oh yeah, it could happen.

I don’t want to cheapen your awesome cloud-based computing experiences with my random ponderings but you have to realize that for every lofty goal and application for the cloud, there’s at least a thousand others with lower targets in mind. The cloud, in all its glory, has many uses and possibilities. In a few years, it won’t matter whose software you’re running when you’re tweeting, updating your status, or shopping for toothpaste at Blarg’s. When you think of the future, think no operating system. Think of the big picture. Think heterogeneous. Think freedom. And know that the days of proprietary software and the poor, locked-in consumer are behind us.

Are you ready to face the operating systemless future head-on or do you have some trepidations? Write back and let me know.

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