Google’s Windows Dump Has Cloud Implications

Google is reportedly banning employees from using Microsoft Windows. Is the company planning to develop a cloud-based Windows of its own, asks Nicholas Kolakowski

The Internet is abuzz with the news that Google is transitioning its employees away from Windows PCs, allegedly because of security issues. In its place, the buzz continues, employees will have their choice of either Mac or Linux systems. The question further posed by the buzz is whether Google’s (unofficially confirmed) decision was the direct result of the “Operation Aurora” attacks, which took advantage of an Internet Explorer vulnerability to siphon some of the search engine giant’s intellectual property.

I’m not so sure that’s the reason. Any system is vulnerable, given enough time. As my colleague Clint Boulton suggested to me earlier this afternoon, it’s likely that Google is clearing its decks to make way for the in-house use of its Chrome OS.

That would be interesting (one’s own dog food, of course, is always a little hard to choke down at first), but what’s making me more curious is how well a cloud-based operating system will play out in a massive enterprise where, presumably, its users will be engaged in all manner of tasks light and heavy.

Jumping into the cloud

If Google wholly jumped onto the Chrome OS bandwagon (and why not?), then that might prod other businesses to take a look at the viability of running their shops entirely in the cloud. There are obstacles, of course. Just to name two: The cloud’s reliability isn’t necessarily in line with what many businesses demand, in terms of uptime, and many applications such as Microsoft Word continue to offer their full breadth of functionality in a desktop context.

But if, within coming years, a cloud-based OS catches on in a business context … that presents some heavy questions for Microsoft. Would the company attempt to develop a cloud-based Windows of its own? If so, how would it generate revenue, and would that revenue be sufficient to keep Microsoft at its current size?

Microsoft has started pushing with heightened aggression into the cloud space: web-based productivity applications, Windows Azure, consumer devices and so on. I’m wondering, though, if Microsoft is considering the ultimate step in embracing the cloud, by envisioning scenarios where either all or part of Windows is ported into it.