During a Gartner symposium which was held in Orlando, a free word association between a Gartner spokesperson and Steve Ballmer from Microsoft, brought a surprising answer. Steve Ballmer was asked what was his companies most riskiest undertaking and he responded that it was the next version of Windows. Interesting. I would have thought it would have been their new phone, or Bing or their cloud offerings. So why would it be Windows?

According to some statements and comments in a recent article, here are some reasons why:

OK. This could be more of the hype we heard rumored earlier this year when the “Windows vNext” rumors began going around. There were reports that the next release of Windows — which most of us out here call Windows 8 — would be revolutionary, not evolutionary.

But when we saw the leaked Windows 8 slide deck which looked to be from Microsoft (dated April 2010), the supposed early feature set concepts for Windows 8 looked solid, but weren’t anything I’d call “risky.” Fast startup, facial recognition as a security option, better support for slates, a possible app store — all good, but not amazing. The one feature on the list that might be considered remotely risky (mostly in terms of the ability of Microsoft to deliver it)? Push-button reset, which allegedly would reinstall Windows while maintaining all of your personal files, applications and settings.

I’ve heard from some tipsters that Windows 8 would include a very different kind of file system. I’m not sure what that would entail. I’m doubtful we’re talking about anything like the old WinFS concept (as this was, for the most part, tabled before the launch of Windows Vista).

So why did Ballmer characterize Windows 8 as “risky”? I’m left scratching my head. Could he have meant risky because of the way it will or won’t compete with other coming PC operating systems like ChromeOS, Mac OS X Lion? Or risky because of the adoption by more customers of the cloud? Could Windows 8 and Windows vNext actually be two different things? Or was Ballmer simply trying to deflect the question and provide an answer that would keep the scrutiny off the company’s newly launched products in mobile and gaming?

Here is my take on the future of Windows. We are going to be presented with alternative operating systems, mainly Google Chromium OS, that could provide us with an opportunity to shed ourselves from being shackled to Windows. This opportunity could allow us to use free applications provided by Google and also to store our stuff in the clouds.

What do you believe the future will hold for Windows?

Comments welcome.

Source – ZDNet