Enthusiasts, are enthusiastic...
Thanks Captain, that's sort of the definition, one who is enthusiastic. Even before Windows 7 was released, enthusiasts were already getting excited about Microsoft's next OS iteration -- and with good reason: Windows 7 is pretty damn slick. A year in and it's still exciting, with SP1 on the way and IE finally becoming a real browser, it's been an ongoing party for Microsoft fans.
Microsoft's next OS is rumored to be released in approximately two years. This is more than plausible as it seems to follow Microsoft's typical release schedule; not counting the Vista wait. A lot can happen in two years, and believe it or not, there are other potential competitors in the marketplace. Oh, yes, it's shocking. Everyone's favourite (to love or to hate) search giant, Google, has been biding their time, taking small steps, and has been encroaching on Microsoft's home turf. Look closely; Google is not only into search - their main focus is really data, in any form. It's not only your documents; it's not only your search queries; it's not only your mail --- Google wants it all. Your street. Your neighborhood. Your city.
They. Want. You.
A combined digital life is the future. Microsoft has the leg up. They have a wonderfully developed operating system, a phone platform that is well integrated into said operating system. A gaming platform that is only rivaled by another company that really has no other integration at all. Microsoft is well on the road to becoming your digital life. Windows 7 shifted the paradigm and moved the focus from tasks and put it on the user. Windows Live has integrated just about EVERYTHING a typical user would want to do with their computer, and it does it well. Daresay it, but the integration experts over at Apple now have their hands full as their metaphorical Goliath has figured out their tricks and is doing them just as well, and very likely moving into better. Microsoft has the idea, they know where they're going, but they're doing it MUCH too slow.
Windows Phone 7 should be a blockbuster, as the concept is a phone systemically integrated into a desktop OS. It's nearly impossible to do something completely new, but ideas are continually developed and expanded on by their creators, and others. In this case, Microsoft has taken a stab at the once again improving Apple's successful methodology and marketing it to their userbase while attempting to regain some of their lost share. Windows Phone 7, just like Windows 7, and everything Microsoft has endeavored to develop as of late, is absolutely gorgeous. Adoption is lower than expected, as it is quite hard to sway a potential market with incremental advantages. By re-entering so late and by being evolutionary rather than revolutionary, Microsoft can only expect to pick-up Microsoft fans, those without a current platform obligation and the occasional technophile who wants to try something new. This is a perennial problem of Microsoft's that hasn't quite been a huge detriment to date, but will continue to plague the company.
With that said, you may now be starting to see how Google plays into this. Sure, their disorganized array of webapps, solutions, services and upstarts seem to be a random conglomeration of data collection or resource spreading, but in reality it is not. Google is incrementally expanding their reach into everything that you want or need from your computer, your mobile, and even your ISP and voice provider. The large expansion of Google into multiple facets of your life is no accident and is leading to a general coup with regards to who provides your digital life. Google is no stranger to the cloud; all of the search giant's services are web and cloud based. They're advertising driven and absolutely free as well which is pretty attractive to most. Some may gripe about advertising but "free, done well" always reigns over a concrete price tag. The pieces to Google's "digital life management" solution are mostly all in place. The final portions: social networking and operating systems, are currently dominated by other players, hence Google's approach to piecemealing content and service provision before offering a wrapper. By launching products and gauging their adoption, rather than releasing a whole suite and hoping for it to be picked up, Google has already cemented their place as a major "digital life" player... all that remains is the packaging. Google OS is impending and BOTH Microsoft and Apple are very much aware of this.
Windows 8 will feature cloud based services, this we know. Microsoft isn't stupid and is also taking the Google approach to digital life management, only at a much slower pace due to their need to transition from their current paradigm to that of the social cloud. Like always, Windows 8 is a tentative step in that direction, but just as frequently, it will not be enough to compete at the edge of the curve. As soon as Google packages their digital life solution, they will have a complete product that users are not only familiar with but enjoy using. Microsoft on the other hand will have the right idea, but will be stuck with an implementation that is gradually shifting their users to the new paradigm of computing and communication. AKA, it's still a desktop operating system. Windows 8 and Google's OS solution will both be cloud based, yet Google's service development has taken an all-in approach and will shake up the market. Microsoft will ride the tail end of the revolution again with Windows 8, (that being if the revolution does happen) and Windows 9 will be the true cloud-based fully developed digital life integration solution.
This is not a bad thing, but it just means that Microsoft fans will be, as usual, looking at the competition with closeted envy, yet standing by their solid, but safe, product choice. Windows 9 will offer EVERYTHING that Google's digital life solution offers, and it will do it better... Windows 8 will be a tepid climate tester, and thus will be too little too late. This is partly due to the fact that Microsoft also must focus on their Enterprise customers as this is a HUGE revenue source. They're slow moving because in that market they must be, it's a disadvantage of the stream. For the consumer this often looks like a lack of development.
Windows PHONE 8 on the other hand will be the necessary mobile paradigm shift for true mobile and OS integration. Coupled with Windows 9, this full solution will be a Microsoft users dream. Microsoft relies on evolution rather than revolution, and this just means we will have to wait a bit longer. But that makes us happy, because it's always complete and in the end, just what's needed.
Windows8Update is on board with these thoughts as well, so it's not just the thoughts of an isolated individual. They have provided an interesting tidbit that this author didn't think about as well: It's always hard to figure out what's up over in Cupertino, but iOS and mobileME seem like a tentative step to test the market's tolerance for revolution as well. Apple's well on track for an integrated solution, and they have the backing as well to pull it off. They might be less transparent than Google, but don't discount them either.
This is the single most interesting time in the computing world, stay tuned because your world is only going to become more connected.