My Fantasy – A new consumer cloud Operating System from Apple and Dell Part 4 – What should a cloud computing OS look like?

January 31, 2011

This is the forth is a series of posts about one of my (geeky) fantasies about the search for the perfect cloud Operating system.

As we continue to speculate about Windows 8 and discuss possible cloud computing tie-ins in the future, I believe that the move to the cloud will become an essential component of any successful operating system going forward.

The first post was an overview.

The second post discussed the requirements for the new cloud based Operating system.

The third post discussed possible back end datacenter requirements for cloud infrastructure

This post will go into detail about what I believe a Cloud Computing OS should look like.

Let me begin by saying that the cloud computing creates a wonderful opportunity for vendors to rethink the entire concept behind where and how we perform everyday work/play functions on a computer.

Cloud Computing is simply affordable, accessible, reliable remote file storage space in geographically distributed data centers.

In the context of an Operating System, this changes the game substantially.

As I said before, Ultimately, I believe the next really revolutionary cloud OS has to have the following attributes:

  • Encourage a smaller form factor for the desktop
  • Make user profiles truly portable
  • Allow use of software as opposed to installation of software (big difference)
  • Make the process of installing drivers/software updates efficient and transparent (not the users concern)
  • Take full advantage of cloud efficiencies (storage, processing etc)
  • Eliminate the use of media (dvd and cd’s)
  • Allow full access and use of any device connected to the cloud (printers etc)
  • Be more secure than we are today
  • Allow dual booting to thumb/zip drives for a mini local OS if desired

So what would it look like?

Here are my thoughts.

Look and Feel

It would be a hybrid between the Windows Operating System of today and Apples IOS. The graphical user interface would be light but effective.

My gut tells me that we havent seen the right mix yet but it would be closer to an Ipad’s operating system.


A user would have an option at login to attempt to log into the cloud or log into a local hard drive environment with access to the internet like we do today.

The local option will NEVER go away. People want to store some objects offline and that is the only way to keep that option viable.

The cloud environment would allow the user to enjoy a virtual desktop that had access to the following 4 components

  1. Files
  2. Folders
  3. Mail
  4. Browser


I believe that ultimately, software will need to be rewritten to run in the cloud versus running for separate systems (PC, MAc, Linux). Why do I need to have a PC format to run a word processor? I just need to run a word processor.

I also believe that eventually, software makers need to move toward the concept of a Universal Software Library (USL).

A universal software library would work like an appstore except you would be able to pay per use versus buying an app.

It would work this way:

1) I log on to the cloud and decide that just this once, I need to edit a video. I log into the Universal Library, select an Adobe Product (Pay per Use) and then it opens up and i do my editing. My account is charged 20 cents.


2) I log on to the cloud and decide that for this month, I need to edit some videos. I log into the Universal Library, select an Adobe Product (Pay for a month) and then it opens up and i do my editing. I can come back and use it over and over for free that month. My account is charged 5 dollars


3) I log on to the cloud and decide that I edit videos for a living so I want to own this tool. I log into the Universal Library, select an Adobe Product (Buy option) and then it opens up and i do my editing. My account is charged 30 dollars and as long as my credentials are logged into the cloud, this application is mine to use. From anywhere at anytime.

I would have a menu system that kept track of my applications and what usage plans I had for each application.

Just like Itunes, I would get charged for what I bought seamlessly..

A Universal Software Library would change the way software shops ran and make them leaner and more efficient. No more CD’s or DVD’s to ship anymore. Easy billing and transactions through a cloud providers (Apple’s?) billing system.

This would also eliminate entire industries (driver checkers, disk defrag etc) but create new ones (coud anti virus etc).


As long as I knew the key for any cloud enabled printer, I could log into a printer anywhere and print my documents.

Pricing and Storage

There are many options here. In order to ansure adoption, there could be tiers of usage for accounts. Free accounts would help the third world get onto the cloud but free accounts would have limited storage and no ability to opt out of

advertising on ther desktops and browser. Paid plans would be tiered and would start extremely low and could be upgraded immediately a user started running out of storage space.

That would be awesome. to have 500 gigs and then when you ran low click an upgrade button, pay 30 dollars and magically have an extra 300 gig appear.


May options here as well. Using a Kinect or a fingerprint reader, a home user could have extra levels of security beyond a username and password. These would be stored in a Universal Credential Store.

Corporate Security

Once a (for example Bank of America) employee was logged into their cloud account, they could then log into a private Bank of America cloud.

This gets interesting. Once logged in, their private (corporate) cloud environment could be:

  1. Different colored folders and files that appeared on their current cloud desktop.
  2. A whole new desktop with access to new files, folders and applications.

This is really cool stuff..

Form Factor

The cool part about this is that the actual box could be the size of an apple tv box or smaller. If you were wary of the cloud and wanted to work offline a lot more, you could use a larger, more traditional form factor that looked more like today’s PC’s. That way, you could store your hard drive etc.

A monitor and keyboard would still be needed but as long as those inputs/outputs existed, there’s no reason why a smartphone couldnt act as your Operating System base.

You could use your phone to make phonecalls etc and when you got to work, you could plug it in to a docking station and it could be the base for your cloud operating system.

Touch Screens

I believe that (ironically), OS touch is further away than what I have described so far. When the majority of users are able to use the “traditional” model I have described, I believe that touch will be a natural extension of that.

Bottom line

This is very cool and exciting stuff and Apple is perfectly positioned to lead the way into this new world. The good news for Microsoft is that there’s still time to pull off a coup…

I believe that Windows 8 could lead the way into this world but it would take guts, balls and moxy.

No comment..

My next post will talk about Hardware support..

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Mike Johnson is a writer for The Redmond Cloud - the most comprehensive source of news and information about Microsoft Azure and the Microsoft Cloud. He enjoys writing about Azure Security, IOT and the Blockchain.

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