There's been considerable buzz about a new Web Operating System in the last year. The prominence of the web is so strong in the usage that most of the users are doing on their daily tasks that a lot of people are thinking we should have some type of operating system. The idea is that when you start a computer you're in a web browser and a web environment where all happens around internet access and such.
I believe something like this makes sense. As a user I need something like a WebOS. The concept to me is mostly about being able to access my personalized desktop from any computer/device. The exact way it will come I'm not sure, but I think these are some interesting options:
1. Web Sites operating as OS. A good example is youOS
. I love this web site, they did capture what a user needs. It provides a virtual desktop and it remembers it unless you tell it to start a new session. I am a total freak with preserving my desktop status, so this is exactly what I was looking for. They definitely need a capital injection to improve the looks, provide more applications, allow a better scheme for third party developers to build YouOS applications. But, as a proof of concept of what could be done with a virtual web OS, they deliver.
2. Real operating systems in the traditional way could become the new standard with modifications to make them more web focused. A great candidate seems to be Ubuntu, one of linux flavors. I have a computer at the office dedicated to Ubuntu (mostly for the occasional visitor with browser needs ;). I love their marketing, simplicity, open source philosophy. I believe they will do a great advancement as more and more applications convert to web, but I don't see them taking over the rest of the OSs.
3. A thin client application running on top of each and all the rest of the current OSs could be the new WebOS. This thin client would allow you to login once and enter to your virtual desktop that would be stored in some server. The functionality is similar to the web site WebOS, except that it would not be limited to a web browser page and it could do a much better use of local resources. It would be easier to add online/offline functionality. If you think about it, a web browser today is a minimum expression of this WebOS, but of course it's far away from becoming an OS.
4. One last options is that it remains like it is now, but it becomes more and more integrated through improvements in browsers and sites. Firefox today has the capability to remember your session for instance, which to me is one of the ingredients of the WebOS. There are many signs that the web is going in this direction of integration and becoming a huge interconnected application in the users eyes. An example of such unique identification systems is openId.
Read/Write Web makes some interesting points on how this might happen and bets as Google being the main actor of the WebOS. I'm not so sure about that either ...
I personally would bet on 1. web server WebOS or 3. thin client WebOS on top of any OS. Of course if you want to compete with Microsoft like Apple, Google and Ubuntu do, then you probably would bet more on 2. a new real OS built to be the WebOS.