Microsoft’s next iteration of the Windows client will come in a world a tad different from today, in the sense that there will be a new rival to take into account beyond Linux and Mac OS X. Google is putting the finishing touches on Chrome OS, its Chrome browser-based open source operating system, designed with netbooks in mind. Chrome OS changes the concept of what a computer platform is. Unlike Windows, which acts as the foundation for applications, Chrome OS is a platform for services. What this means is that Chrome OS, anchored as it might be on an actual device, will put users into the Cloud from the get go. In a recent article in The NY Times, Linus Upson, the vice president for engineering in charge of Chrome recalls a funny moment in which he tried to swap the computer running an older version of Chrome OS that Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder was using, with a new machine featuring the latest release of the platform. Brin’s first reaction was to keep the computer, as he was used to having all information, data, applications, stored locally. However, this is not the case with Chrome OS. Google’s platform puts users in the Cloud, which means that everything from settings, to documents, to web apps are hosted on Google’s server farms. With a single account, customers can have their Chrome OS, their apps, their docs and data everywhere they go, independent of the Chrome OS device they use. I’m wondering whether Microsoft will have a response to this with Windows 8, or Windows vNext, the successor of Windows 7. There have been some hints pointing to the fact that there will be an intimate connection between Windows 8 and Windows Azure. Whether this will be in the same manner as Chrome OS and Google’s Cloud it remains to be seen. Still, just as it is the case for the Mountain View-based search giant the Redmond software company is also leveraging its databases more and more. Microsoft has a complex collection of Cloud offerings, platform as a service, infrastructure as a service, software as a service, etc. But will the company build Windows 8 to be able and tap PaaS, IaaS, SaaS and so on and so forth? Even with the advent of Windows 7 Microsoft continued to push for a software plus services approach. After all, products such as Windows and Office continue to be top earners for the company. But looking at the evolution of Office 2010, users can undoubtedly see that Office Web Apps, the Cloud component of the productivity suite is illustrative of Microsoft’s expansion into new territories. Whether this means that we’ll get a Windows 8 Web Apps or not it still remains to be seen. There is however talk already of Windows Azure backup for Windows vNext, as well as quasi-confirmation of an App Store in the Cloud, and even rumors of desktop as a service for the successor of Windows 7. Microsoft continues to be mute on what the future holds for the Windows client. Still, I’m afraid that the company’s silence will mean that once again, in the case that Windows 8 will be indeed pushed into the Cloud, appear to be a follower in terms of innovation, with Google taking the position of leader.