If Windows is a dead end, what's next?

Windows 7 looks like lipstick on the Vista pig. Maybe it's time to contemplate the PC after Windows

But Microsoft's toolkit to make the transition to the new PC order goes beyond Silverlight. Microsoft's entry into virtualization hypervisors with Hyper-V is an obvious tool. So is the application virtualization technology Microsoft got when it bought Softricity in 2006. And then there's Azure, the new cloud services platform Microsoft announced last week, which seems to be based on the popular SharePoint collaboration platform. The use of that platform could help tie the emerging cloud to the existing desktop world, giving both Microsoft and enterprises a transition point.

There are several projects within Microsoft to explore how to keep Microsoft technology central to a post-Windows world, notes MacDonald. One is the Midori effort to create a componentized OS freed of all the DOS and NT legacy that has a stranglehold on today's Windows. And Microsoft's Singularity project is another attempt to explore a reinvention of the OS in today's context.

The question remains whether Microsoft can take these pieces and put them together in a compelling way. Can Microsoft both break from the past and help enable the transition away from it? Or will Bill Gates' old vision of PCs being desktop mainframes -- or the need to keep selling bloatware every few years for the huge cash infusion it brings -- get in Microsoft's way?

In other words, is Windows 7 the last of the dinosaur Windows versions, or are there more to follow?

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