I've been closely following the Web OS movement for the past couple of months, as I'm convinced it's evolution will lead to a richer platform experience for emerging W20 businesses. One thing that has been interesting is the trend towards zero-cost platform establishment, with companies able to deploy full features web applications into the cloud at zero barrier cost, then adopt a pay as your grow model using dynamically scaleable (hot scaleable) infrastructure.
But the other evolution that is happening is on the desktop (I honestly don't see the concept of a user device running something that provides me access to the web disappearing in the next few years) around the Experience Layer/System and towards the concept of a Unified OS (that's what I'm calling them).
So there are a few players in the game at the moment, but I'm going to call you attention to two for the purposes of my example:
WPF/E - Our x-plat solution for delivering a rich interactive experience to users.
Apollo - Adobe's x-plat solution leveraging Flash, Flex, HTML and Ajax
Now, what's interesting is the concept of an operating system (Windows, *nix) is starting to disappear. The functional aspects have become too low-level, so for most users, the idea of "saving" to the file system, or connecting network cards has become similar to tuning your TV stations, in essence, you don't bother anymore because the level of consciousness has moved up. So enter the x-plat OS, don't worry about the low level OS that is running memory, disk, network etc (I mean, end user don't worry, you still need to make sure it does it well, and that will sway your choice of "hardware control layer"), you focus on the "experience" layer. So this is where the battle will begin.
So the market will suddenly focus not on which OS you run, but rather, which Experience Layer your running. And your experience layer will be fed by the Web OS platform of services (ranging from content, socialization, answers, trends...see, the consciousness is moving from simple things like web services and data to sophisticated, meaningful things like content, relationships, trends) so that you can plug and play with the best service at any point in time (concept of service churn, I use Video provider x plugged into Media App y on my Experience layer, until a better Video Service and/or Media App is on the market).
And many are wandering why Java never hit this mark? Well, in my opinion, it's because it was focused too low in the stack. It was about code, etc, and before too long, there were so many frameworks (very few that focused on enabling the end user to create an experience) around, the end value became lost (that, and it never was performant enough to do high-end interactive media). But with the new Experience Layers/Systems, it's all about delivering an immersive, relevant, content based experience that is ultimately controlled by the end user. The trajectory is based on making it relevant and meaningful to me (as in you and me and everyone as the end user/controller)! So the Web OS services I plug into my Experience apps need to be rich in meaning and experience.
So if we take my drawing below (can you tell I'm no arteest):
Essentially, the major points of interest are the services in the WebOS, and the apps in the ExOS (Experience Layer/System). As a user, I have complete choice on they type of service (Video), the provider of that service (VidX or VidY), and the ExOS app I use (M1 or M2).
If I (Person using M1 with VidX) decide (for reasons of peer or market influence or pressure) that I want to start using VidY, I simply "swap" my connection inside M1. This is dramatic in terms of customer influence on the market, as no monopoly will be safe, and the players that provide the highest levels of service and experience will prosper, irrespective of local influence and pressure. It's a fantastic example of the next evolution of the democratic web driven by customer choice.
Anyhoo, just thought I'd throw that out there, it's all very interesting stuff :)