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Windows Cloud: should Microsoft mimic Chrome OS?

Blue cloud

By Jane McCallion

Posted on 22 Apr 2014 at 14:36

Microsoft is developing a cloud-based version of Windows that could go head-to-head with Google’s Chrome OS, according to a new leak.

The operating system, reportedly called Windows Cloud, will offer users a fully-functional OS when connected to the internet, as well as featuring a basic offline mode.

The rumoured OS sounds similar to Google’s Chrome OS, despite Microsoft having recently slated the cloud-driven platform as part of a long-running anti-Google campaign.

According to analysts, it's likely that Microsoft is developing a cloud-focused OS - but it's not clear if it will ever be released.

It’s almost certain that there will be a group in Microsoft working on this

"It’s almost certain that there will be a group in Microsoft working on this," David Bradshaw, research manager of European SaaS and Cloud Services at IDC, told PC Pro. "Whether or not (or how soon) a Microsoft cloud-OS will see the light of day depends on Microsoft’s evaluation of the threat from Chrome OS.

“Although Chrome OS doesn’t seem to be making serious inroads into Microsoft’s OS business, [the company] … needs to have a range of responses ready to deploy [if it does]," he added.

Mobile response

Owen Rogers, senior analyst for digital economics at 451 Research, told PC Pro that if such an OS is in development, it may have more to do with mobile devices than Google.

"Tablets and mobile phones are being increasingly used by consumers, but these devices have limited technical capability such as storage space and processor power," he said.

"The cloud has potentially unlimited technical prowess, which can be delivered for low-cost," he added. "So a cloud-focused operating system could deliver performance and capability to tablet users who otherwise might be unable to gain such benefits."

Free version?

The Windows Cloud rumour is part of a larger clutch of leaks on other updates, including Windows 8.2 and Windows 9, from prominent Russian leaker Wzor (via WinBeta), who is well known for publishing information on pre-release builds of Windows.

The leak offers no word on pricing for the rumoured OS, however there has been speculation Microsoft is considering a free version of Windows 8.1.

Rogers and Bradshaw are split on how likely this is.

"Freemium software is win-win for both consumers and vendors," said Rogers. "By penetrating the market with a free operating system, Microsoft could not only bring in more paid customers, but may also make Windows more appealing to the greater public. Microsoft is already doing this with Office for iPad."

Bradshaw said that while "the new leadership will want to have a range of strategic options available to maintain the OS business, including new ways of pricing," he doesn't “see them giving it away to end customers, as that would cannibalise the existing OS revenue."

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User comments

It would make more sense surely ...

If Microsoft simply offered future Windows versions "for free" to Office 365 subscribers?

By JohnAHind on 22 Apr 2014

Sounds sensible

Personally I'm no fan of the "Chrome" approach, at least not given the current crappy state of Broadband access in UK.

BUT if there were ubiquitous decent-quality broadband, then a "cloud-centric" O/S, like Chrome and this "Windows Cloud" effort starts to make better sense.
Despite the limitations of current broadband, I'm moving many of my activities into the cloud.
This is via Services like Office 365 and a host of other services which support my local PCs and enable me to create & access critical (and frivolous) stuff anywhere, anytime.

The "New" Microsoft seems to have twigged this pretty comprehensively and as we have seen with Office for iPad, the old King "Desktop Windows + Office" is dead, long live the King.

By wittgenfrog on 23 Apr 2014

WiFi Access

Although the state of broadband access certainly isn't anything to gloat about, you're going to need pretty near ubiquitous WiFi access to run either Chrome or Windows-on-the-Go to let them work to their advertised capabilities. Chrome is being sold as an operating system on the go

By JAF12 on 23 Apr 2014

Puppetware

Perhaps I'm just being paranoid, but I don't like the idea of someone else having active control of my machine - something I have paid for and own.

I don't enjoy the notion that they can decide what is 'safe' or 'sufficiently current' to run on my machine and what is not.

It may suit some, but I wouldn't want it. Now if I could download this 'free' Windows and install it, then that might be a different matter, but the idea of always needing to be compliant with their TOS/EULA etc, is not my idea of freedom.

By Klobba on 25 Apr 2014

Microsoft has realised that Cloud OSes are the future.

Microsoft's Windows 8 and Windows phone attacking the tablet market was Microsoft's recognition that tablets are the future for casual mobile use, and mobile content consumption.

The Scroogled attacks focusing on Chromebooks rather than Android, was the first indication that Microsoft realises that the future of the desktop/laptop use case belongs to Chromebook-like OSes. This is now reinforced further by Microsoft's attempts to introduce a Windows based Chromebook-like device.

By spm1234 on 27 Apr 2014

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