Yes, this is the kind of thinking that occurs once a light bulb sometimes appears above someone's head - after - they finally grasped what the RIA (Rich Interactive Application) movement is all about.
".. With Cross Platform RIA, you don't even need an operating system anymore, you just load the application make use of existing API's found on the Internet and that's it!.. Web 2.0 mashup's are the fastest growing concept online today!..."
I won't attach whom quoted that as it will just kick off another blog-battle-royale.
That being said, is this true? will RIA replace the next generation(s) of Windows, and I'd argue no. We aren't mature enough to cope with this concept firstly, it's one that will freak the entire world out in a nutshell (minority will argue the case, whilst majority will agree). It's a bold strategy and I'm all for a concept that blurs the line between server-side and client-side adaptation.
Yet there is a fundamental flaw exists, in that RIA needs a runtime, an agent to act on your behalf to glue the various "API cloud" to the client-side pieces that and it will have to present a unified view over the various disparate systems (a balance needs to be struck, Graphics + Performance + Security + Size = ???).
This in turn requires an operating system, one way or another you need that bottom platform and it's about how to bolt this as a socket onto such platform. This is something I've thought about quite a lot in detail, it's also a topic in which lead me towards some hidden gems buried within Windows Vista.
I say this, as if you looked at the journey Microsoft took from Windows XP to Windows Vista, it was really about interoperability (how could people use the operating system other then via prescribed way), in that the development teams wanted to provide a way in which customers (that means you, yes even if you pirated vista it still includes you) can go deep within or simply execute on applications on the surface. How deep you wish to go is up to you, but all the pieces are there - you just have to decide.
Windows Vista is for me, the first time Microsoft has ever provided such a comprehensive set of SDK's and API's to empower developers from all walks of life, to really dig in and make use of the operating system.
RIA on the other hand has limited backstage pass assigned to it. It can't go to deep, as if it were to then it would breach the trust barrier and thus the runtime would die of a swift but well executed death (mainly via competitor campaigns etc). It comes back to trust, if you want an agent to sit between both client-side and web-side, you have to assign it a level of trust that cannot ever be compromised. If it does, start considering a new brand name or different strategy.
RIA needs an operating system to encourage it's growth. If we evolve and agents of RIA become much smarter and hurdles around trust are overcome, then - maybe - we could potentially see a radical redesign of operating system architecture but overall, one thing an operating system does bring is a consistent platform ( even though Apple and Linux are obviously different to Windows, none the less all have a consistent model from which to build).
I personally would prefer one day that we carry our operating system on a USB Key, and our machines simply become "hardware", something we plug our operating system into, it boots up and we are off and running (thus removing the need for carrying bulky laptops around). Yet, this is kind of what people may hope RIA becomes? I'd say no, it's a different approach but similar line of thinking associated to RIA at present.
RIA is bold, it has more left ahead of it and with the Web 2.0 cloud getting smarter and bigger it will compliment it's growth, but make no mistake - we aren't mature enough in the RIA landscape to consider adopting it as an operating system.
Watch how in years to come, Live.com will play a role in Windows going forward. Is Windows the RIA agent? or is the software housed within it the RIA agent?
This post was inspired from watching this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRcP2CZ8DS8 (I'm not sure what motivated his presentation, but I simply rolled my eyes and attributed to being ambitious.. great, but in reality not at present).