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New Details On Microsoft’s Replacement For Windows

August 4, 2008

Microsoft has initiated new research into an operating system called Midori, which is intended to replace Windows after it retires.

Already noted as drastically different than Windows, the scaled back operating system is centered on the Internet and does away with the dependencies that tie Windows to a single PC””Microsoft’s way of facing its rivals’ use of “virtualization.”

Midori is believed to be under development because Windows is unlikely to be able to cope with the pace of change in future technology and the way people use it.

New details about Midori recently surfaced in an issue of Software Development Times based on internal Microsoft documents.

“If you think about how an operating system is loaded,” said Dave Austin, European director of products at Citrix, “it’s loaded onto a hard disk physically located on that machine.”

“The operating system is tied very tightly to that hardware,” he said.

That, he said, created all kinds of dependencies that arose out of the collection of hardware in a particular machine.

But in a time where more modern ways of working continue to allow people to become increasingly mobile, Windows faces unavoidable change.

Microsoft issued a statement that said: “Midori is one of many incubation projects underway at Microsoft. It’s simply a matter of being too early in the incubation to talk about it.”

Darren Brown, data center lead at consulting firm Avanade, said virtualization had first established itself in data centers among companies with huge numbers of servers to manage.

Putting applications, such as an e-mail engine or a database, on one machine brought up all kinds of problems when those machines had to undergo maintenance, needed updating or required a security patch to be applied.

By putting virtual servers on one physical box, companies had been able to shrink the numbers of machines they managed and get more out of them, he said.

“The real savings are around physical management of the devices and associated licensing,” he said. “Physically, there is less tin to manage.”

If one physical server failed the virtualized application could easily be moved to a separate machine, he added.

“The same benefits apply to the PC,” he said. “Within the Microsoft environment, we have struggled for years with applications that are written so poorly that they will not work with others.

“Virtualizing this gives you a couple of new ways to tackle those traditional problems,” he said.

Dan Chu, vice president of emerging products and markets at virtualization specialist VMWare, said many virtual machines imitated Windows PCs, but many were also emerging that are specialized for a specific function.

“On the desktop we are seeing people place great value in being able to abstract the desktop from actual physical hardware,” said Chu.

“People take their application, the operating system they want to run it against, package it up along with policy and security they want and use that as a virtual client,” he said.

In such virtual machines, the core of the operating system can be very small and easy to transfer to different devices. This, many believe, is the idea behind Midori – to create a lightweight portable operating system that can easily be mated to many different applications.

Michael Silver, research vice president at Gartner, said the development of Midori was a sensible step for Microsoft.

“The value of Microsoft Windows, of what that product is today, will diminish as more applications move to the web and Microsoft needs to edge out in front of that,” he said.

“I would be surprised if there was definitive evidence that nothing like this was not kicking around,” he said.

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