Windows Azure

Microsoft revealed a significant shift in its strategy Monday, introducing two new and drastically different Windows products at its annual Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. First, there is Microsoft’s cloud-based Windows system, Azure, which takes the focus away from the individual PC and has Microsoft customers relying more on Web services instead of desktop applications. Then, there is Vista’s successor, Windows 7, which serves as Microsoft’s next operating system (OS) — but without the bulk.

Azure is being billed by Microsoft as a cloud operating system, or an OS that exists within a network framework. Developers will create services and applications based on the framework. Consumers will then use those applications in a hybrid desktop-online manner, similar to how Windows Live Services such as Windows Live Photo Gallery function now. For example, you can access and manage your photo library via either a Web browser or a Windows Live Photo Gallery – blurring the line between Web service and desktop application.

Then there is Windows 7, slated for release in 2010. It presents users with a leaner OS, pushing consumers to rely more on Windows Live Services such as Windows Mail or Movie Maker. Gone will be the plethora of built-in software applications, with programs instead being downloaded a’ la carte as desired.