It's no secret ... Microsoft software was born in an era where getting connected wasn't much of a concern as few had connections! Microsoft has moved with the times with constantly updated products, but they still largely install on hardware. The rise of virtualisation, where multiple operating systems can run on a single device, or across a farm of devices is shifting computing to the 'cloud' ... data centres out there on the internet that serve up .. services (Interestingly DELL has recently filed a trade mark application for the term 'cloud computing'). This means devices can be less energy consuming and act more as a remote control than an actual processor. Indeed Sun Microsystems has as their motto "the network is the computer" (coined by John Gage) which seems pretty apt. My previously abstract knowledge of virtualisation was enhanced when a colleague set up (he's a Microsoft genius!) multiple Microsoft servers on his laptop on the way back from Edinburgh to demonstrate the principle and versatility.
A recent leak in a BBC article shows that far from standing still, Microsoft may be planning a post Windows succession to a virtualised environment, codenamed Midori. Synchronising application data across devices has always been tricky when the device contains different versions of the same data, and as more people move between devices and places, there is a need to move data and processing from the rim to the cloud and to share a common virtual desktop. The Sun Global Desktop is an example of this thinking; indeed it runs Windows environments.
With Microsoft's massive market share of the device based desktop, they should be well positioned to provide a considered migration for their customers.Microsoft has recently been described as needing a survival strategy in the face of the open source challenge, the searchable online world according to Google etc., however its worth noting that they rermain strong both financially and as innovators, and soothsaying critics may be somewhat premature.
For the techie amongst you, HERE [PDF 540K] is a link to a Microsoft White Paper entitled 'SCOPE: Easy & Efficient Parallel Processing of Massive Data Sets'. It describes Microsoft's Cosmos distributed computing platform.