The end run around the OS is underway

The operating system may be losing its luster. In fact, you could argue that the operating system–Linux, OS X and Windows–will become an application that just happens to boot first. And hardware vendors are on to the OS’s diminishing importance.
Let’s connect a few dots:
• On Tuesday, Dell rolled out a new line of laptops and one of the best features was the ability to get your email, contacts, calendar and other items without booting the operating system, a process that can take awhile (at least on my system).
• On Thursday, Intel talked up software that can wake a system out of sleep mode to take a PC phone call. It’s probably a security disaster waiting to happen, but it’s handy for PC calls via the Internet.
The common thread: These efforts from Dell and Intel are arguably taking away some of the tasks that the operating system would normally do. My working theory: The OS is being slowly downplayed as hardware vendors and Web developers grab more control over the user experience. The OS will never be totally irrelevant, but it will be increasingly less important. It’ll be plumbing. Simply put, the OS is being squeezed between hardware vendors that are cooking up their own applications to handle key tasks and the so-called Webtop, which will deliver programs through the browser.

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