Glyn Moody has written a beautiful eulogy for the Windows desktop of yore, one that I heartily encourage you to read.
For many years, people in the free software world have dreamed of a day when GNU/Linux would replace Windows on the desktop....[I]t seems unlikely that GNU/Linux will ever take over the desktop from Windows. But that does not mean that Windows will maintain its dominance there, simply that the future is more complex than the monoculture we have seen and suffered for nearly two decades.
Moody touches on a range of threats to Microsoft's desktop dominance, and in the process uncovers a rising threat to both Microsoft's desktop dominance and user freedom. The culprit? The cloud.
On the surface, today's web seems to be a developer's dream - there are more platforms than ever and everything has an API. Yet the darker side to this shift leaves developers with less control over the apps they build. Instead, they're at the whims of those that run the gated communities and closed platforms of today's web. Are we abandoning openness for the sake of security? And is that a trade-off we want to make?
On one hand, applications like Facebook have been opening up, but the underlying code is still Facebook, and Facebook determines which applications can run on its platform, just as Apple does with the iPhone. The cloud is controlled in a way that Microsoft never dreamed of doing.
Which may be why Microsoft is trying to figure out ways to extend its desktop dominance to the cloud, using the desktop as a receiver and transmitter of data from and to the cloud. Windows 7 is likely to take us a ways toward that vision, but Midori is its realization. This is why I view efforts like Canonical's to open up the cloud by opening up the desktop so important.
Windows may be "dead" in the sense of an island of productivity. But Microsoft is definitely not dead, and may help to further the crowded rush to close off the cloud. It's a bit bleak that we've yet to even truly begin and we're already dealing with a heavily locked-up computing platform.