Looking for growth in new markets where it is increasingly being bypassed, Microsoft said Oct. 27 that late next year it would begin offering a new "cloud" operating system that would manage the relationship between software inside the computer and on the web, where data and services are becoming increasingly centralized, reports the New York Times. The company needs a new kind of operating system for a new computing world populated not by a single style of desktop computer, but by dozens of different kinds of internet-connected appliances ranging from smart phones to mini-laptops. More of those devices use programs that reside on a remote server rather than on the device itself. The servers, in the so-called cloud, deliver what are called web services, which can be anything from customer relationship software or a Facebook game. Microsoft is a late entrant into a market that is crowded by a range of players offering every flavor of cloud computing, including Sun Microsystems and IBM, as well as Amazon and Google. Although Microsoft has continued to have strong sales of its operating system software to corporate customers, growth of its Windows Vista operating system appears stalled. Moreover, the company has significantly delayed its next generation of software for mobile smart phones at a time when competitors like Apple and Research in Motion are using their own software to sell more cell phones to corporate customers. The new Microsoft "cloud OS"–called Azure–gives Microsoft an opening. But many of the giant software company’s competitors believe it is unlikely that Microsoft will be able to maintain its advantage either in market share or profitability in the future…

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