However, one thing for Microsoft has always stayed constant -- the Windows
brand name. Since November of 1985, with the release of Windows 1.0, Microsoft
has never strayed far from the brand name that made it in the OS business. But
now as it sees the need to evolve yet again. Internal company documents have
revealed it is doing the unthinkable -- it is designing
a non-Windows branded OS.
Such ideas at Microsoft's OS division might be branded as heresy by some, but
others laud the move. As Microsoft feels that no existing technology is
sufficient for the OS's unique challenges, the new OS will be an entirely new
design, built from the ground up. The system is codenamed Midori and it will be released sometime post-2010.
The new OS will focus on a rapidly growing field of computing -- cloud
computing -- or the movement to shift hardware and software, particularly
storage, out of home PCs and into computing clusters -- is gaining significant
momentum. Thanks to widespread high speed internet, an internet-connected box
communicating remotely with hardware can perform visually approximately as well
as a box with dedicated hardware. Further, by adopting a server-style hardware
system for the cloud computing resources, costs will drop, the driving
motivation behind the push
to adopt cloud computing.
The internal documents reveal Microsoft to be focusing on this
internet-centered aspect, emphasizing connectivity. The new OS is built on
Microsoft Research's Singularity experimental OS, an entirely new OS codebase
created but not yet publicly released. Midori
will run on native hardware (x86, x64 and ARM), via hosting with Windows
Hyper-V hypervisor, or even hosted within a Windows process of future operating
Early reports indicate that Eric Rudder, senior vice president for technical
strategy at Microsoft and an alumnus of Bill Gates' technical staff, is in
charge of the new OS's development. Rob Helm, director of research at
Directions on Microsoft confirmed that the rumors are likely true stating,
"That sounds possible—I’ve heard rumors to the effect that he [Rudder] had
an OS project in place."
Microsoft's plans detail efforts to make Windows and Midori applications coexist and work together nicely, although some
efforts are also being made purely to migrate applications to Midori. Midori will be built upon an asynchronous-only architecture that is
built for task concurrency and parallel use of local and distributed resources.
This will help it manage various hardware and software resources over the net.
It will also feature a distributed component-based and data-driven application
model, and dynamic management of power and other resources.
The new efforts focus on allowing applications to run in a variety of
environments from P2P networks to traditional servers to cloud computing
clusters. Microsoft will use high level abstraction of the hardware resources
to help programs work together; a scheme Microsoft internally calls
Asynchronous Promise Architecture. In order to allow for cloud-hosted
applications, Microsoft is focusing on three development branches -- execution
techniques, a platform stack and a programming model that can tolerate
cancellation, intermittent connectivity and latency. The OS features a new
stack and techniques, which will allow for extreme multi-threading, with more
threads than ever before running simultaneously.
The new efforts by Microsoft attempt to take the very complex program of cloud
computing resource management and multitasking and break them down into a
simple interface that will be useable by programmers. Forrester Research senior
analyst Jeffrey Hammond says, "Mere mortal developers need a programming
model/application model that lets them distribute processing to massively
parallel devices without having to become experts. Even with the quad-core
Intel chips today, you have to have specialist teams to take full advantage of
Among other things, Microsoft will migrate APIs, applications, and developers
to a constrained model of state management. It is also using metadata heavily
and looks to do away with dynamic loading. The new OS will be supported by .NET
for programming projects. Much work will be done in incorporate easy to use
abstraction and multitasking into the .NET framework.
The new OS will be slimmer with two kernels: a micro-kernel for low level and a
second kernel for high level. It will also be more secure, with the components
isolated and their communication channels more secure.
Ultimately, the programming and technical details of the new OS will likely
matter little to the home user. What will matter is Microsoft is hoping to
provide them with a more secure, cheaper
OS+netbox option, which could possibly fall in the $250-$350 range. To add
a bit of final perspective on Microsoft's groundbreaking new efforts its worth
considering -- the last time Microsoft wrote an entirely new OS on this
magnitude, there was no internet as we know it today. The changes that have
come since are a key reason why Microsoft's decision to start from scratch may
prove a savvy one.