(Via CIO-Today.com) The "operating system" as we know it is going to seem much less important in the near future. Windows, may not go away but it will no longer be considered the central experience of computing. The recent release of Apple's Tiger OS and the anticipation of Microsoft's Longhorn reemphasise that, for all intents and purposes, the OS is the computer. All these could change in the near future..
Intel funded an opensource initiative that helped to bump the OS universe off kilter, although the effects will be delayed - this now is a Silicon Valley startup called XenSource. It makes a virtualization product called Xen hypervisor, which has only about 25,000 lines of code. In conjunction with the Xen technology, Intel has begun to optimize its chip to run Xen hypervisor. This allows a computer to realize its full capabilities, including all the operating systems it holds as well as functions that do not require an operating system.
Xen is a very thin layer of software that essentially presents to the operating system an idealized hardware abstraction and the OS is no longer glued to the hardware but floats above it, talking to Xen as if it were the machine. The implications of such virtualization are enormous. For one, you would be able to run multiple operating systems on your desktop. Desktop applications running on different versions of the same operating system can be still run without great difficulty. The operating systems will not interfere with each other or the applications. This general idea was originally intended for large computer systems, which employ partitioning to maximize the use of the machine's hardware. With this breakthrough, any desktop would be able to do essentially the same thing, including doing tasks with which Windows and other operating systems are clumsy. In this paradigm, the OS could not be less important except as a tool to run the applications you need. The Hypervisor has capabilities to get partioning going on providing for such things as TV viewing and browsing effortlessly.In five years, the era of a single operating system for each desktop might join the ranks of other computer nostalgia like DOS, monochromatic CRT displays or floppy discs.