Nicholas Carr writes:
…even as the world’s largest software company struggles to meet its latest deadline for unveiling Vista, it’s announcing a massive new effort to build a completely different operating system – a web operating system modeled on Google’s sophisticated network of computing “clusters.” Google’s Web OS runs the company’s search engine and a rapidly expanding set of related services such as the lucrative AdWords advertising system. Seeing such web services as the future of software, Microsoft feels it has no choice but to build its own Web OS to compete with Google’s.
A Web OS is very different from a traditional computer operating system like Windows. The latter is an intellectual construct, a set of instructions written by people. You have to spend a lot on salaries and other labor costs to build a traditional OS, but the capital expenses are negligible. A Web OS, on the other hand, takes physical as well as intellectual form. If you want to control the OS, as Google and Microsoft do, then you not only have to write the instructions but you have to buy, assemble, and maintain all the equipment – processors, storage drives, and so on – that the instructions control. Because a Web OS runs centrally, you have to own the equipment it runs on, rather than offloading that headache onto your customers.