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.

Comments on "Whose Platform is it, Anyway?"


It is possible that Cloud computing and virtualization will eventually replace operating systems, but I do not see that happening until a vast majority of the US and perhaps Europe / China / India have cheap (or free) wall to wall wifi coverage. Otherwise, your laptop will be an expensive paperweight while your commuting in your flying car.


Um…..what does this magical browser run on? It requires an operating system. And your sound, video, peripherals…are they all magic too? The biggest vulnerabilities are Internet Explorer + Windows, Web-based exploits have the potential to be a problem on all platforms, and yet you and all your fellow pundits keep claiming that \”the cloud\” will make all that irrelevant. I think you have no idea what you\’re talking about.


As a provider of individualized services to users, I can tell you they already don\’t know (if) they are using an operating system. Most ordinary users don\’t know Word from Windows, nor do they care — they just want to do what they want to do. In fact, (and this is especially true of Mac users) they don\’t know that they are running applications. Like their automobiles, the computer is a machine that does what it does, somehow, mysteriously and hopefully successfully. When it doesn\’t it goes to the shop for repair — even if the problem is actually on the other side of the keyboard!


@bcspratt, Agree

@buggin, Agree, especially the last sentence.

@ddelv, Agree


Won\’t customers be more locked in, when they depend on companies supplying the product, not only for the product in it self, but also data storage, communication, applications and pretty much everything? It might start out voluntary, but after a while transition costs of moving to another service will probably outweigh the benefits of that move..

You can already see it happening with gmail, google apps and chrome OS.


@atexit: Correct, except Google happens to be open right now. You can take your data and run. Competition will to some extent ensure this remains the case. The solutions is open data formats for exchange, and clear, concise info of when and how you can take your data to move elsewhere. And maybe we as a society (not \”the government\”) decide that there needs to be some regulation to keep providers on the straight and narrow.


I think cloud in itself needs a revision. I do not want to pay for mobile broadband for my netbook. Not only that, but do we really want 10,000 flash apps on our browser, sucking our cycles? Ug. Desktops will not become obsolete so long as we have such crappy ideas and even crappier methods of doing something like cloud. I doubt we will see 3D flash games like DOOM 3, and I doubt anyone would want to wait to upload a video to edit just so they can wait another hour to download it. And what about those slow flash apps? My PC is a PC, not a cell phone. I do NOT want to pay $50 a month to keep it running. Did I mention the slow flash apps?


Cloud computing should stick to the applications (mail and other apps). One can decide to use internet from time to time, so he/she does not have to pay for WiFi just in order to use Word. Also, I may need a custom application. On what OS it should be developed, how can I install it if I don\’t have OS? Of course, there will be a solution but anyway, I will have to pay again for WiFi network. It doesn\’t seem to me like a freedom.


This seems to be an issue that to\’s & fro\’s a bit. One day cloud computers make a huge headway, then the next day hardware vendors demonstrate their dominance with hardware quality & price.

I think cloud computing is making a huge impact, including giving hardware vendors something to work with, think about, & even emulate in some small way. Just look at the iPad: it wouldn\’t work as a serious system without another larger system to link to. I dont think so anyway.

It looks like a win-win situation. Just nobody do a Microsoft & steer development in a forceful way to include them to the exclusion of others.


I think you are getting a little ahead of yourself. In order to boot up your laptop, computer, netbook or whatever; it needs an operating system to make it work. These devices do not just operate from a magic cloud they need a system. I could see a minimal system with limited storage based on a browser interface. The OS is used to boot up the device so you can access the apps and storage existing on a cloud. There is a great potential market for opening up a subscription service for the apps and the storage on the cloud.


Great, that’s what I want….just as bad as I want to go the hospital and get charged $400 for gauze. What I’m trying to say is, if everything were to go to a thin client/ cloud computing for all services…then you would have to pay for every little thing you wanted to do. Reminds me of those movies with quarter/credit slots for everything you need to do…hahaha no TP for you, that will be 25cents for a square. Thanks, but no thanks! Back to normal conversation though. People are typically lazy, and don’t care where there services come from in most cases, but there are enough people with the common sense to know that this type of world would be an giant leap in the wrong direction. Don’t even let me get started on privacy, or security.

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