Over the past 15 years there have been three certainties in life: Death, taxes and Microsoft Windows’ domination of the OS market. Research firm Gartner believes that last part could soon change.

Speaking at a Gartner-sponsored even in Las Vegas a couple days ago, two analysts from the firm gave a presentation in which they laid out why they think Microsoft’s Windows operating system is on the verge of dying. Among the key points, outlined by ComputerWorld, were:

  • Windows’ rapidly-expanding codebase (that makes significant changes harder to implement)
  • The slow rate of adoption for Windows Vista
  • The future plans for Windows not being different enough
  • The trend in OS-agnostic applications

All of these points seem like fair observations, but they don’t even go deep enough. Hardly mentioned at all in the ComputerWorld article is the key element that both TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb recognize: the web.

The desktop computer is increasingly becoming a means for one thing: web access. Sure, an operating system and installed software are still important in a corporate environment — the exact place that Windows still is, and will remain dominant for some time, but as companies (and business in general) evolve, to think that anyone in 10 to 20 years will be using the same desktop computers running the same basic operating systems is foolish.

Many people have issues about their data going up to the “cloud” (the term used for the large server farms that companies like Google and, yes, Microsoft employ). There are security concerns and reliability questions, but the move there seems all but inevitable.

Google has been steadily rolling out updates to its cloud-based applications such as Google Docs to allow users to gain access to and edit their data even when they are not connected to the Internet (our coverage). And while yes, it can be frightening to think that one company controls all of your data, think of a bank. There was a time when people were reluctant to place their money in the hands of a company run by someone else — now it’s impossible to think about a world without banks.

Don’t forget, Microsoft is making a move to put more data in the cloud as well (our coverage).

There is another trend worth noting. The reports showing an increasing number of young people leaning towards an OS X-based Apple computer as their next purchase. One recent report states that as many as 40% of college students plan to buy a Mac as their next computer. These numbers do not bode well for Microsoft.

While a headline that speaks to Windows “collapsing” may be a bit sensationalistic, the underlying message is one that rings true to an increasing number of people: Microsoft needs to evolve beyond Windows or faces a real threat of extinction.

[photo: flickr/jeffwilcox]

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