The "Windows Cloud": Microsoft gets it half-right

Microsoft has announced it's developing a new operating system for Internet-based applications, which it's calling the Windows Cloud at the moment. That's a big step forward for Microsoft, but there's some evidence that it may only get the new operating system half-right.

Steve Ballmer today told IT managers at a Microsoft-sponsored conference in London that Microsoft is at work on a Windows Cloud operating system that would make it easy for developers to write cloud-based applications.

That's good news because Microsoft has been very slow to move to cloud-based computing. Google and Amazon, by way of contrast, have been much more aggressive. In the past, Microsoft has seemed to be more intent on protecting Microsoft Office than recognizing that the future of applications is Internet-based.

Ballmer also said that Microsoft is working on developing a version of Office that would allow people to do light editing of Office documents online, rather than using a client version of Office. That's more good news.

But Ballmer also made it clear that it will only go so far into cloud-based computing. When it comes to productivity software like Office, he says, "We want software more powerful than software that runs in a browser."

That's true, but only part of the time. Most of the time, people only use the basics of Office, and so most of the time, online-based versions of it will work perfectly fine.

Eventually, I think Office will become a hybrid of online and client-based. Just the fact that Microsoft is looking at letting people edit documents using an online version of it is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, though, Microsoft will have to take plenty more steps than that.

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