The Increasingly Irrelevant Desktop OS

Virtualization and cloud-computing will save the desktop operating system but we really just need a way to launch applications.

As promised from yesterday's post, "Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die," today's post will expand on the idea of non-localized operating systems for you and perhaps give you some insight into the future of computing. The future is to have no distinct operating system on your local device (Tablet, Phone, Netbook, Laptop) but have access to operating systems (not that you'll need one), services and applications via the Cloud.

You don't need an operating system anymore. You need applications. Think application virtualization.

What's the one barrier preventing mass Windows to Linux conversion? Applications. Everyone complains about the lack of business applications--business applications compatible to accepted standards like Microsoft Office, QuickBooks and Exchange. Linux is free. What's more compelling than free? Compatible applications.

The problem is that you can't give away something that doesn't support what people are used to using. Applications rule. Operating systems are in a distant second place by comparison.

I don't really care that my iPad runs iOS 4.x because I don't interact with the operating system. I tap an app when I need to do something. I don't use the operating system for anything. Does that bother me? Not really and that's significant, since I'm a Windows and Linux system administrator. I'm someone who interacts with operating systems for my job. But, I still don't care that I don't interact with iOS. Nor should I.

All I really care about is that I can access Windows systems via RDP, 2XClient, DaaS Mobile and VNC apps. I can access websites and email via CloudBrowse and Safari. I can connect to my Linux systems with iSSH, VNC and RDP. And, I can access my cloud-stored files on with apps for Dropbox, QuickOffice and PlainText.

I just don't care what the operating system is on the local device. It could be Android, Chrome, some mobile version of Windows, OS2, Xenix or even SCO UNIX. I need to connect to services, apps and operating systems that are far away from me. If I needed to run Windows Server 2008 on a local system, I might be more inclined to care.

This is why cloud-based desktops make sense for me. If I'm carrying my iPad to the mall and I get paged for a support call, I can connect to a cloud-based desktop or to a server system and fix the problem. If I were bound to a localized operating system, I'd have to lug around a laptop, a power cable and find a place to sit down. Wouldn't that look cool at the mall? Oh, and if I used a non-approved operating system (Mac OS X) on my laptop, I'd have to race back home to work. Not good.

So, I reiterate my assertion that without virtualization Apple's OS will die. And, perhaps it should in favor of iOS but if people want to continue to use Mac OS X, Apple must change its licensing to allow virtualization on non-Apple hardware. And, to only allow the Server version of OS X is short-sighted. The OS that needs virtualization is the Desktop version.

If I had apps on my laptop that would allow me to connect to cloud-based OS X, I'd use it. I'd also use a cloud-based Windows and a cloud-based Linux. But what's more important than any operating system? Applications. Cloud-based applications running on cloud-hosted operating systems. That's the future. That's the Cloud. That's no OS required.