Are Operating Systems Based On An ‘Open’ Experience Becoming Endangered?

While my time with Windows 8 Consumer Preview hasn’t been that long so far, I must say I am thoroughly enjoying it at a much deeper level than I ever did the early on Developer Preview. The speed, improved Metro UI, and the Windows Store are just a few things that many users will quickly learn to love about Windows 8. That being said, Windows 8 really got me thinking.

Part of what makes Windows 8 interesting is its new UI, Metro. This new, touch-friendly interface manages a fairly decent store (though until its commercial release, its apps are limited) and brings social features to a new level, while also integrating cloud technology through SkyDrive.

While Metro has plenty of perks, it also is designed under an atmosphere that is considerably more closed that what we are used to in the PC world. While Windows is not even close to being as open of a platform as Linux, it does allow a fair amount of customization, including the ability to run unauthorized software such as programs.

Since Windows Vista, this has slowly but surely began to change, at least a little. For security’s sake, things like secured drivers that have been put into place. A closed system for drivers really makes sense, as it prevents problems that come from unsigned drivers (though you CAN still run them if you turn off Windows Signature Enforcement). This is a small example of the shift to a slightly more closed experience.

In Metro, you can’t install 3rd party apps, at least not until some form of unauthorized jailbreak hits the scene. You can change colors and move titles, but by-and-large, Metro can’t really be customized at very deep of a level. Even its default browser, Internet Explorer For Metro, is somewhat closed thanks to ditching plug-in support in favor of a completely HTML5 based experience. So overall, Windows 8 is an interesting mixed of open and closed.

As the world moves towards cloud functionality, simplified secure experiences, and a more casual-oriented, mainstream experience, are closed systems going to become an endangered species? After all, is it very easy for a open system to exist in the cloud? Perhaps, but to keep your data secure, a certain amount of restrictions would have to be placed on such a system.

Some theorize that Windows 8 is the beginning of a shift away from the legacy desktop, and in time Metro (or a future evolution of it) will be all that is left. As cloud technology becomes more prevalent, this could certainly make sense. The cost though, would be the loss of an open system.

Of course, closed systems like Linux may never disappear. Others argue that a closed system has more benefits than downfalls. As I see it, the world in the cloud is likely a closed experience, but we likely have several versions of Windows left before this shift is completed.

What do you think? Will Windows and other major operating systems eventually make the full transition to a closed platform where no tweaks can really exist, and all program must be approved by the OS’ maker before showing up on a proprietary store? Or am I just being a bit paranoid?

That being said, I like Windows 8 and don’t at all mind this closed/open platform hybrid that we see between the desktop and Metro. Hopefully MS will keep it that way. At the same time, it may just be the way technology is headed. Any thoughts on the subject? Share them below, as always.

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