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Microsoft has kicked off a research project to create software that will take over when it retires Windows.
Called Midori, the cut-down operating system is radically different to Microsoft's older programs.
It is centred on the internet and does away with the dependencies that tie Windows to a single PC.
It is seen as Microsoft's answer to rivals' use of "virtualisation" as a way to solve many of the problems of modern-day computing.
I have not heard of any effort to create a virtual hardware standard, and since Microsoft don't seem to be talking about it either, I suspect a significant move in this direction is some way off yet, certainly five years and probably ten.
Assuming there are no more debacles like Vista, I think Windows will survive for the foreseeable future. It is interesting to note that Midori is supposed to be lightweight whilst MS have stated that Windows 7 will be based on Vista not XP. No one could ever accuse Microsoft of being consistent!