Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Thursday promised it won't be long before the world gets to meet what he is calling "Windows Cloud"--something that acts like Windows but operates over the Internet.
"Just as we have an operating system for the PC, for the phone, and for the server, we need a new operating system that runs in the Internet," Ballmer said Thursday in a speech before France's CIGREF (Club Informatique des Grandes Entreprises Françaises). "I bet we'll call it Windows something. We're going to announce it in four weeks. We might even have a trademark by then. So, for today I'll call it Windows Cloud. And Windows Cloud will be a place where you can run arbitrary applications up in the Internet that runs .NET."
Ballmer first mentioned the "Windows Cloud" name in a speech in London earlier this week. Microsoft is expected to unveil "Windows Cloud" (whether it bears that name or not) at its Professional Developers Conference, which takes place the last week of October in Los Angeles.
Microsoft has already unveiled its Live Mesh, a consumer-based service that synchronizes data across multiple devices. The software maker has promised that application developers will also be able to write Mesh-based applications and that the tools to do so will be detailed at the PDC. Windows Cloud appears to go significantly beyond that, however.
The move into cloud computing, Ballmer said, will require a shift in Microsoft's overall developer tools, Ballmer said on Friday. "Part of that means putting .Net in the browser, which we've done with our Silverlight technology," Ballmer said, according to a transcript posted on Microsoft's Web site. "And yet I don't think the whole world lives in a browser. PC applications have better user interface, and you can integrate them more. Browser applications run on non-Windows machines, and they're easier to manage. We need to bring the benefits of both of those things together on Windows, and through our Silverlight technology permit the targeting of other systems."
Ballmer also talked about desktop Windows at the event, first addressing Vista and then talking briefly about its successor, Windows 7.
"Windows Vista is a product where we made some very conscious choices for some very good reasons that have been very painful," Ballmer said. However, he said that the company has now shipped about 180 million copies of the operating system.
"Deployments in large corporations are now ramping up quite nicely across the world, but in the enterprise I would say we are still earlier."
He then promised that Windows 7, as the company has been saying, will be compatible with Vista.
"No more breaks," Ballmer said. "So, any work we're doing together with you or you're doing on your own to test your applications for Vista compatibility will also apply to Windows 7. We hope you choose to deploy with Vista, but all of that work is good, important work for the long term."
Microsoft plans to release a pre-beta version of Windows 7 to developers attending the PDC.
He also said that Vista has lived up to its target of being, statistically speaking, the most secure version of Windows to date.
Ballmer also talked about the shifting expectations people have for software, pointing to the MySpace generation as one that expects people to have social capabilities built-in to their software.
"The young people you hire today, they grow up on MySpace, Facebook, and instant messaging," Ballmer said. "They grow up with a fundamental notion that applications have knowledge of other people. In order for business applications to go that direction, we need to provide fundamental platform operating system services that really provide what I might call the social web or the social graph."