Several analysts contacted by InternetNews.com declined to try to predict what Windows will look like in another 25 years, because of the pace of technological innovation, but described their current views on what's coming in the nearer term.
"People are saying, 'I want an inexpensive machine that turns on instantly,'" Michael Cherry, research vice president for operating systems at independent researcher Directions on Microsoft, told InternetNews.com
"We need some form of Windows that runs on light-weight, small, fast machines, whether they're iPads or phones," Cherry said.
Cherry and other analysts agreed that upcoming versions of Windows will hook into the cloud for heavy duty processing needs.
"There's no question we're going to have a shuffling of where the processing is going to be performed, and much of that will be in the cloud," Cherry added.
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT agrees on that point.
"We are moving to a model where consumers and businesses move to the cloud but, in the x86 data center, I think Windows is going to be the operating system of choice," King said.
Indeed, that is currently the way Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 -- with the server underlying Microsoft's cloud data centers -- are architected. However, Microsoft may be conflicted within itself over what to do moving forward with the Windows client, according to another analyst.
"There are two camps at Microsoft. One wants to build something small like the iPad [operating system] -- lean and mean -- while the other camp wants to throw in everything, including Kinect," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told InternetNews.com.
In fact, just last week, Microsoft officials said that Kinect's 3-dimensional sensing capability will become at least part of the way people use Windows in the future -- along the lines of the virtual, holographic user interface depicted in the sci-fi thriller Minority Report.
Additionally, there are many unanswered questions around how Microsoft's just released Windows Phone 7 will do in the marketplace, and whether Microsoft's pending entry into the slate market with an edition of Windows 7 will play out in the company's favor or not.
One of the battles that Microsoft must win, however, is not losing control of the Internet client marketplace, which increasingly is moving towards mobile device access -- and as every other step in the past 25 years, it's far from a done deal.
"The impetus on the mobile side seems to be with other players, [such as Android,] and that's an enormous challenge for Microsoft," King said.