The death of operating systems and unique platforms has been incorrectly predicted by people for years now, but this time there are great chances of it actually happening. As we enter 2019, it’s becoming increasingly clear that cloud-based services are rendering the value of proprietary platforms much less relevant for our day-to-day use. The real work of what we do on our devices is becoming increasingly separated from the artificial world of operating system user interfaces despite the initial interface of a device and the means for getting access to applications and data being dependent on the unique vagaries of each tech vendor’s platform.
Regardless of the underlying platform, it’s now much easier to get access to what it is we want to do in both the commercial and consumer realms. On the commercial side, moves like Microsoft’s delivering Windows desktops from the cloud as well as the increasing power of desktop and application virtualization tools from the likes of Citrix and VMWare demonstrate how much simpler it is to run critical business applications on virtually any device. Besides, the creation of platform-independent applications that rely on nothing more than a browser to function is driven by the growth of private (on-premise), hybrid, and public cloud environments. Microsoft’s decision to leverage the open-source Chromium browser rendering engine for its next version of its Edge browser has made it clear that we’re rapidly moving to a world in which the cloud finally and truly is the platform.
The rapid growth of platform-independent streaming services is also promoting the sublimation of proprietary operating systems on the consumer side. Successful cloud-based services like Netflix, Spotify to even the game streaming services mentioned in Prediction 2 are building most all of their capabilities and intelligence into the cloud and relying less and less on OS-specific apps. In fact, how open and platform agnostic Apple makes its new video streaming service will be very interesting to see. They risk having a very small impact given the strength of the competition if they make it too focused on Apple OS-based device users only.
Crossover work and consumer products like Office 365 are focused on delivering a consistent experience across different operating systems, screen sizes, and device types and shedding any meaningful ties to specific operating systems and instead are.
It should be noted that the concept of abstraction goes well beyond the OS level. There is new software being written at a high-enough level to leverage the wide range of different AI-specific accelerators from vendors like Qualcomm, Intel, and Arm (AI cores in their case) which would allow them to work across a very heterogeneous computing environment. The flexibility and broad support that this approach enables are well worth it, given the fact that this might have a modest impact on full performance potential because more heterogeneous the computing environment grows, the less important operating systems and proprietary platforms become. It’s going to be a very heterogenous computing world in 2019, hence the time for cloud-based services making operating systems irrelevant has finally come.