Now that Windows 7 has been launched, it is time to think about the next version of Windows, which has been dubbed Windows 8 already.
Windows 7 came out two years and nine months after the release of Vista and using the same time frame, we estimate that Windows 8 should be out by July 2012, possibly days before the 2012 London Olympics.
As the Redmond giant was feverishly preparing for the launch of Windows 7, a small, anonymous group of developers and project managers continued working in the shadows on the next versions of Windows, together with select members of a few of their strategic partners.
Not many details have emerged about Windows 8. We know that Windows 8 (and possibly 9) could be offer 128-bit as well as 64-bit compatibility based on a job description on Linkedin (ed: however, some like Bing.nu, claim that the data leaked was fake). Earlier in April 2009, the company also advertised jobs to deliver "major improvements" to existing Windows's File server system (WinFS anyone??).
It is not known if it will still be based like, Windows 7 and Vista, on MinWin. Neither do we know whether there will be a 32-bit "legacy version" or whether there will be one desktop and one cloud-based version (like Midori).
We don't know whether Microsoft will settle for that name or not. We suspect that a number of Windows 8 decisions as still up in the air and will depend on market conditions (read the state of the competition, Chrome OS, Linux and Mac OS X and maybe, maybe Maemo/Moblin).
We also fully envisage that Windows 8 will be available not only for x86 but also for other platforms. The ARM architecture ecosystem is set to become even bigger in the next few years and Microsoft will not forgive itself if it shuts itself out of a market of hundreds of millions of connected devices. ARM though is a 32-bit RISC Instruction Set Architecture, unlike x86 which is a 64-bit CISC ISA.
The other big technology paradigm shift that happened over the last decade has been the rise of multicore systems. ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Microsoft Research Cambridge in the UK are already collaborating on a new research operating system called Barrelfish and it is not impossible that Windows 8 and Windows 9 integrates research generated by these researchers.
Another significant advancement has been the surge in security threats. This gave rise, within Microsoft, to Singularity OS, an experimental platform that has been in gestation in Redmond over the past six years and is build from ground up as a much more secure environment compared to existing OSes. Midori is said to be the commercial implementation of Singularity, introducing new concepts like componentisation.
Ultimately, Windows is moving away from a rather homogeneous platform - one with clearly defined parameters, where the CPU is a x86 CPU to an exploded, heterogeneous environment where a processor can be an x86 one (or not), a video card (ATI or Nvidia' GPGPU), local or distributed, real or virtualised. Indeed, your next computer might not even be a computer but instead a phone or a set top box.
Footnote : The term singularity was applied in the field of technology by Futurist Ray Kurzweil to describe explosive growth in technological progress. With the boundaries of Moore's law being pushed further and further, it was only fitting to have a Microsoft OS (or at least a project) named Singularity.