Windows 7 and Microsoft's path to the cloud

Windows 7 is a big leap forward but misses the opportunity to turn Microsoft into a cloud player.

With the launch of Windows 7 many signs point to the fact that Microsoft seems to have gotten its operating system engineering in order. That's obviously good news for its OS business unit and also good news for PC manufacturers and software companies that develop for Windows.

A rising tide of Windows adoption is not a bad thing for the technology industry in economic terms but it doesn't yet do a lot to enhance the way we use computers and applications in our every day lives.

The main problem is that Windows 7 reinforces a desktop centric-paradigm for 93 percent of the market and continues to exert a certain level of misguided design principles in the way the system handles data and file structures. And while it's a giant leap forward in terms of customization, visual effects, and security there is a missed opportunity in the cross-border approach of combining the desktop and cloud services.

Cloud-based applications and storage are still so nascent that Microsoft could jump in and usurp much of the power and market share while shoring up its cloud story for the future. Having the dominant desktop landing pad gives Microsoft a huge advantage over upstarts--even Google and Apple, if it can focus on integrating the services.

Here are a few ways Microsoft could assert its dominant desktop position to compete with Google and Amazon as a cloud player:

Integrate cloud storage with the desktop
I don't use Apple's Mobile Me but I see the appeal. I suspect that if Microsoft offered a similar function as part of Windows 7 there would be huge adoption. This could be easily solved through a low-cost acquisition of one of many online backup and storage services.

Give enterprises a simple way to backup and store files remotely.
Microsoft has a huge data center infrastructure and is a trusted partner (for better or worse) to a huge number of enterprises. With all of the services currently available for cloud backup this should be a non-issue.

Make Azure really good and less confusing than it was when it launched one year ago.
Microsoft has an enormous developer base , however, developers still don't have a simple Microsoft cloud deployment option for their .NET applications, something that should be readily integrated into Visual Studio and really become part of the OS.

All of these statements rely on the fact that Microsoft can actually do these things--that is, create the technology and run the services with the required service levels. And realistically there is no reason why they couldn't and certainly no reason why they shouldn't.

It's hard to believe that the world's biggest technology company can't get its cloud act together, and we've seen Microsoft change course to fix its Vista problems. But Windows 7 seems like a missed opportunity to make a bigger splash in what is currently a very small pool.

As entertaining as the Windows Launch Party videos were, I can't help but think the time and effort could have been better spent on developing new service offerings.

 

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