End of the Windows Age?

Information Week had an interesting observation in an article about the beta release of Microsoft’s next-gen OS, Longhorn (aka, Vistaaaa!).

It could be the last time an operating-system release matters this much. With
computing’s center of gravity shifting from the desktop PC to online
applications from competitors like Google Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc., and to
consumer electronics like Apple Computer’s iPod, Windows Vista is an attempt to
show that the PC still matters. "Some people will ask if Windows Vista is the
end of the last generation of software," CEO Steve Ballmer said last week at a
meeting with financial analysts at Microsoft’s headquarters. "I think of it as
the beginning of the next era of software from Microsoft."

Is Steve whistling past the graveyard? Windows may last because they’re going to make it run on everything. But I was looking at the laptop I’m writing on the other day and thinking: "The operating system is half a decade old (Windows 2000) as is the MS Office software. It doesn’t do much but standard office stuff and can only communicate over ethernet. Every time I need to change anything I have to make an appointment with IT. This thing is a dinosaur."

Here’s my thought: the internet is changing things, not just software styles but attitudes. You may be better off going outside the system to get things done and to get the tools you need. Is Longhorn the end of the desktop PC, the cubicle drones that use them, and the IT departments that keep the utilities running? If I said "yes" it would just be wishful thinking.