Microsoft is working on a new operating system, "Windows Cloud," aimed at developers working on cloud-computing applications, and expected to launch at the end of the month, according to CEO Steve Ballmer.
Speaking at a software conference in London, Ballmer said the new OS will be rolled out at Microsoft's annual developers conference in Los Angeles, where the official details and name will be announced, according to International Data Group.
During a meeting with financial analysts in July, Ballmer talked about competitors and their focus on operating systems, and teased about Microsoft embracing the idea of cloud computing. He said he would talk more about computation, storage and management at the Professional Developers Conference.
"If you go talk to some of our erstwhile competitors, they'll tell you, 'Hey, we're actually building -- we won't call it an operating system, but we're building a new thick client, it's called the browser, and we're just going to keep pouring more and more of essentially operating-system capabilities into the browser,'" Ballmer said.
He added that companies believe in a world of balanced computation, but the question isn't what is going to happen, but how it is going to happen -- and who is going to win.
Regardless of how you spin it, analysts say the impact of cloud computing will be huge, and some say the recent downturn in the financial markets will only boost the need for cloud-computing services like software as a service (SaaS).
"The vendors are at very different levels of maturity," said David Cearley, a Gartner fellow. "The consumer-focused vendors are the most mature in delivering what Gartner calls a 'cloud/Web platform' from technology and community perspectives, but the business-focused vendors have rich business services and, at times, are very adept at selling business services."
Still, Cearley said cloud computing is an evolving concept that will take years to mature, and is not the next generation of the Internet.
On the Bandwagon
It's not surprising that Microsoft is talking about a cloud-computing OS.
For nearly a year, IBM has been working on cloud-computing infrastructures for clients around the world. IBM has assigned more than 200 full-time researchers and has announced plans to invest $100 million in cloud computing.
IBM has also recently started establishing projects in IBM cloud-computing environments, according to the company.
Last week, IBM opened more cloud-computing centers throughout the world, offering universities and government agencies a chance to test Web-based services and applications. The centers in Brazil, India, Korea and Vietnam bring the total number of IBM cloud-computing centers to 13.
Intel and Oracle also announced a push into cloud computing and collaboration at Oracle's OpenWorld 2008 conference.