Over the past couple of days, there's been much made of Gartner Group's prediction that Windows Vista will be "the last big release of Windows." That's a pretty sweeping -- and vague -- prediction.
How is Gartner defining "big"? And what will count as an "operating system release," going forward? Will a service pack count? Does a rollup of hotfixes and new features constitute a new Windows release?
What about Microsoft's so-called "Cloud OS" project? Or Microsoft's ongoing moves to modularize Windows (as further evidenced by its patent application for a pay-as-you-go OS)? When elements of what used to be part of a desktop-based version of Windows debut as services, does that actually make an operating system release "smaller," in terms of size and/or importance?
I hear there are other "big bang" OS projects in the works, too. There is allegedly a cross-divisional "many core" effort underway at Microsoft to meld together the Microsoft Research "Singularity" OS project with Microsoft-developed hypervisor technology that will be able to accommodate massively parallel hardware and software.
Singularity, as Microsoft watchers may recall, is a non-Windows-based microkernel that Microsoft researchers have written from scratch as 100 percent managed code. It is being designed, from the outset, to minimize internal subsystem dependencies. On the product side of the house, Microsoft is expected to release a test build soon of its hypervisor virtualization layer, code-named "Viridian."
Will the resulting Singularity+Viridian code count as a "big bang" OS release when and if it finally goes commercial?
Bottom line: It seems a little premature to claim that Microsoft is done with major Windows releases. Even if the Redmondians further blur the lines between service packs and full-fledged OS updates (as they seem intent on doing), Microsoft and its hardware/software/services partners aren't going to let go of the concept of the big-bang OS update any time soon.