Next up for Microsoft is its upcoming Windows 7 operating system, which is expected to arrive late this year in an assortment of sizes. And now, Google's new Chrome OS plans all but guarantee that a version of Windows 7 will target the mini-notebook market. And while Google and Microsoft race to meet the so-called smartbook opportunity, Apple has been applying its own polish to a touchscreen tablet-like device. This in-between gadget will no doubt pack as much punch of the Apple OS X as possible, while keeping with the promise of 9-hour battery life and zero wait time for startup. So how big is this next generation software race? Who knows. But one thing seems clear: The hype will be huge. "All of this is at least a year away. That's a decade in the technology business," writes Henry Blodget in his Business Insider blog Wednesday. "But it will be the story of the year." Google shares were up 1.6% to $402.77 in Wednesday trading.