Even Microsoft has realised cloud computing will be the death of the desktop. The question is, will Microsoft die along with it?
Live Mesh is Microsoft's foray into cloud computing - creating an online platform on which to run applications and store documents. It also has the ability to sync online and offline documents. Think of it as a virtual desktop sitting within a browser (which in turn sits on your desktop). Live Mesh is currently operating in a closed beta of about 10,000 people, is free for now and offers 5GB of online storage.
Of course this is the direction Google has been heading in for several years. Adobe is another one to watch, while sites such as Facebook and My Space are becoming platforms as well. If Microsoft doesn't keep pace, I'd say it's unlikely to survive the next decade.
Microsoft dead in a decade? Sure it's easy to spurt such predictions, but I think it's a fair call if Redmond doesn't embrace the cloud. Microsoft's two cash cows are Office and Windows, and cloud computing threatens both of them. Just as most of us don't need all the bells and whistles of Microsoft Office (we're just locked into its formats), it's getting to the point where most of us won't need all the bells and whistles of Microsoft Windows. You'll always need an operating system running on your hardware, but why lock yourself into the Microsoft upgrade cycle and proprietary formats when most of the functionality resides in the cloud? The Vista debacle and demands to retain XP should serve as a warning to Microsoft - people just want an OS that "just works".
The biggest threat to Microsoft obviously comes from Google. Google Docs already has its sights set on Office, and it's only a matter of time before Google declares open war on Windows with an open source desktop OS. That's the day historians will mark as the beginning of the end for Microsoft. Linux has never managed to make much headway on the desktop, but the backing of Google could be enough to change this.
Google has already made a play for the mobile space with the Android operating system to challenge Windows Mobile. If Android is a success, Google could ride the halo effect and make a grab for the desktop. Then again, Google realises that the future of the web is mobile, so perhaps it's happy to let Microsoft rule over the decline of its desktop kingdom.
In Hindu legend, the world rests on the back an elephant, which in turn is supported by a tortoise. Unless Microsoft sets its sights on the clouds above, it's destined to remain that slow tortoise at the bottom of the stack - until it fades into mythology.
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