At the risk of fanning unwelcome flames, it’s interesting how the “news” of Microsoft’s ‘Midori’ futuristic operating system and putative successor to Windows, has spread over the last several days.

To recap, on 29 July, Software Development Times reported that:

Microsoft is incubating a componentized non-Windows operating system known as Midori, which is being architected from the ground up to tackle challenges that Redmond has determined cannot be met by simply evolving its existing technology.

“SD Times has viewed internal Microsoft documents that outline Midori’s proposed design, which is internet-centric and predicated on the prevalence of connected systems.

“Midori is an offshoot of Microsoft Research’s Singularity operating system, the tools and libraries of which are completely managed code. Midori is designed to run directly on native hardware (x86, x64 and ARM), be hosted on the Windows Hyper-V hypervisor, or even be hosted by a Windows process.”

The author of the article noted that this wasn’t the first time Midori had been mentioned. The code name (if little else) had popped up on ZDnet articles here and here.

SD Times certainly had a scoop, however, but what’s interesting is what happened next as other news outlets trickled out skims of, or angles on, the exclusive. Reminding everyone who had come up with the original goods, SD Times had a mid-life kicker ready and on 31 July reported on the migration path being planned for Windows users:

“SD Times has viewed internal Microsoft documents that reveal the company’s preference of an orderly replacement strategy rather than breaking sharply with its past … According to the documents, the company plans to create Midori’s ‘legacy-free bubble’, both at the programming model and at the user level. The models differ in the degree to which Midori and Windows coexist, and virtualization could wind up in the mix.”

Yesterday, the BBC News website and even the UK free-sheet Metro . were reporting on the Midori and the news story had become one of the summer’s biggest technology news memes. Google News [http://news.google.co.uk/news?um=1&tab=wn&hl=en&q=midori+microsoft&btnG=Search+News] has over 400 stories on Microsoft Midori as of today.

What to make of this? The effect of the Midori news was to kick off a debate about the state of Windows, the successor to Windows and what it could and should look like. That’s good for Microsoft as it keeps the debate about what happens next on the OS within the Microsoft world.

The problem is that we have been here before. While some vendors can be criticised for not telling buyers about their plans, Microsoft is as private as Jodie Marsh . The problem is that great big Microsoft products, projects and components often fail to make it to commercial reality, or become ever-morphing travesties of the original vision.

Think of Cairo , WinFS and (come to think of it as Midori is Japanese for ‘green’) Project Green, the plan to integrate enterprise applications.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily indicative of any scam on Microsoft’s behalf. I know a source close to the company who says that WinFS would have been the killer feature of Longhorn before being pulled because Microsoft needed to hit (or not miss by too much) deadlines for Vista/Server 2008. But that doesn’t mean we should believe Midori will not be pulled at some point or turn into something very different from a successor to Windows.

I don’t know whether the “details” for Midori were deliberately leaked but it’s interesting that Microsoft always likes to have the next couple of versions of its OS coming into view, answering any objections that buyers might have about the current products. It was at it again recently with its breadcrumb trail over Windows 7.

Lots of people have seen this movie before, even starred in it, got shot in it -- and they’ll believe Midori when they see it.

Related stories:

Microsoft irks partners with hosted-services pricing