There are rumours/speculations about “8”. I suspect they are mostly what’s in the works from M$. Nothing else could compete with what’s happening in the real world with ARM+GNU/Linux+Android/Linux. M$ will have to sell licences to a distributed OS with services in the cloud. “8” will be essentially a thin client + terminal services system. The only question is how they integrate with hardware platforms. They could supply a “quickstart” client for each, perhaps in place of the BIOS but more likely it will be a minimal OS that installs on each platform. We shall see. see “The State of”
This looks like a major re-jigging of the OS and they probably started even before “7” was out the door back when Ballmer said they were “all-in” for the cloud. Cloudy efforts to date have been feeble. Putting “8” in the cloud will be very flexible and still allow them to tax clients. M$ will begin charging for service, by the year, month, unit of work. No doubt there will be a thousand options so that an industry will spring up selling to customers.
One thing that is certain is that such a major shift will take M$ a lot of time. They will have to “educate” all their partners, forge new alliances with hardware, and write code for the cloud and several platforms, desktops, notebooks, tablets, TVs, smart thingies and smart phones. We would know if that were far along so it is probably two years more in the pipe. Rumours are 2012. It must be late in 2012 or early 2013.
The bottom line is that such changes are inevitable for M$ and the world of IT will not wait for M$ to get its act together. No one is going to invest a ton of money in “7” when it will all go “poof” in 2013. The world can see that what M$ is doing is imitating the wide-open world of Free Software, running on any platform, any way the user likes. If you are going to change to such a system, why wait? Shift those old XP machines into thin clients of terminal servers and clouds. Buy thin clients. Buy netbooks and smart thingies. You don’t need M$ to drag you through another rat hole into the unknown. You can have it all now.