“There’s no question that Microsoft is seeing Silverlight as the lightweight platform for delivering applications (Web-based and mobile). As far as Midori and [Windows] Azure go, what I can see is that a Silverlight front end is a good front end for an Azure-powered back-end system,” O’Brien said.

An Azure tie-in?
It would make sense for Microsoft to use the Azure platform as a vehicle for introducing Midori, Forrester’s Hammond said. “It’s essentially a .NET-centric (and Internet-centric) scale-out runtime.

“A distributed network-aware OS is the perfect thing to host in the cloud, and what better place to knock out the kinks than your own data center, where you have 100% control over the hardware and infrastructure you’re testing on? This also allows them to test it underneath parts of the overall infrastructure: for example, hosting an individual service,” Hammond explained.

Further, Microsoft is battling for new territory—distributed applications—with the Windows Azure platform, O’Brien said. As such, the platform has little legacy codebase, as well as ample funding in money and talent, along with new challenges, he added.

“While I don’t think that we know if Midori would work as something fed ‘down the pipe’ to the consumer, the idea that Azure might ultimately benefit from its own operating system is definitely worthy of debate,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said that Microsoft might launch Midori as a new operating system for cloud data centers to up the ante against Google, which has developed new programming languages for writing distributed applications.

Midori’s strong emphasis on concurrency issues, a willingness to break compatibility, and the idea of using a hypervisor “as a kind of Meta-OS” would fit that strategy, O’Brien observed. However, he noted that there is no concrete knowledge about the state of Midori or even that its design is necessarily attractive for a data center OS.

Microsoft does not have the lead in cloud computing, and it is rolling out new features for the Windows Azure platform to stay competitive with Amazon and Google, O’Brien noted. “At this stage, Microsoft cannot build Azure bottom-up. But the risks of retrofitting Azure to a new OS are vastly less than the unknowns of putting a new OS onto all the world’s hardware.”

The status of Midori
While the company has remained tightlipped, some information relating to the status of the project has become available. Midori team member Jonathan Shapiro departed Microsoft in March, citing personal reasons.