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Next-gen operating systems: Facebook on steroids?

Google Wave, the Facebook development platform and social network, along with cloud services providing applications running online - if we mix all of these together, could this redefine "operating systems"? Ponderings
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

The conversation I had with Mozilla Labs UX chief, Aza Raskin, last week has made me think about the future of the web. He envisions a future when the vast majority of things in the cloud are combined with a social web, and "something" where the two overlap. Stick with me on this one for a minute...

Readers of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog should be aware that in the next decade, Windows will be phased out and replaced by a next-generation operating system, "Midori". My guess is that it will run as a Software+Services model where the client machine will do processing but the vast majority of the "workings" will be run from the cloud, including applications.

It's just a guess, mind you. There's nothing definitive yet, and even the Queen of Redmond herself isn't entirely sure, due to the tight-lipped nature of the Singularity/Midori teams. This is at very least my vision of the future operating system.

So based on this thinking (and I am keen to stress that this is purely conjecture), isn't this to some extent what Facebook could turn out to be if it was stuffed full of electronic uppers and poppers, and poked very hard with an ingenious stick?

The very nature of Facebook is that of a social experience. You interact with others - friends, family and colleagues - in a way which has gotten modern sociologists wetting themselves with excitement. The psychology of the whole thing is blowing the minds of these radical professors into new ways of thinking, and technologists are seeing this sort of platform as the potential for the future.

But Facebook, MySpace, Bebo - whatever. The social experience has shifted so that Facebook is the primary source for this. I use "Facebook" as a visual metaphor for current and post-modern social experiences online. I could call it "Moosey moosey la la la swatty mass moose" but it wouldn't have the inciting memory capacity for the real-world effect I would have hoped for.

If the desktop operating system experience is to carry on as it has done, our shift to cloud processing and computing is almost inevitable. Instead of having a client machine which computes the knowledge and data crunches locally, this will occur in the cloud. This isn't a new concept; with services like Amazon S3, Google AppEngine, Microsoft Azure taking the burden off the client.

So take a look at Facebook -- the site, the service, the product -- whatever you want to call it, because with the developer support and the integration of third-party software and services available, I would no longer classify it as a standard social network.

Widen the potential of Facebook and the developer platform and a wealth of opportunities can kick in. Say Google Docs was an application on your profile. You can write a document from scratch or upload an existing one, then have an existing collaborative space with your Facebook friends. You could send it off as you would normally do on the site through the tagging system in place.

I've already said that students could not live entirely in the cloud as of yet. Perhaps with these technologies moulded together in some form, or at least working side by side, this could be a realistic venture.

With the already existing networks in place, the potential could be huge. Align this with something like Google Wave and the need to download your email or upload a document could be a thing of the past. All it would take is an intermediary body to link these together and there you have your next-generation "operating system" in the cloud.

Thoughts?

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