Simple and Compelling

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-07-13 Print this article Print

Moreover, Brust said Google has shown that people love Web applications, and the machine- and OS-independence that they afford.  The V8 JavaScript engine in Chrome, and its very notion of script compilation, shows that the Web can be a real platform and run-time, with optimized execution, just like Java and .NET, he said.

Further, the notion of a lightweight "un"-OS that boots quickly or, more simply put, the idea of a computer that's just an extremely simple appliance, is compelling to people, Brust added. "Outsourcing complexity to the server is just fine by most people," he said.

Yet, Brust, who also is a regional director for Microsoft , said:

"Even if Google OS is not a commercial success, it will still be a very powerful proof of concept for what is an -aspirational' product for many people: a computer that gets out of the way and lets people do their email, document, Web and social networking work without any friction at all, and at extremely low cost.  The very fact that people yearn for this -- and I think they do -- should scare the stuffing out of Microsoft, whether or not this particular implementation is successful.  When you add this threat to a growing list of others (loss of market share for IE, loss of consumer enthusiasm to Mac OS, loss of developer enthusiasm to LAMP, the uphill adoption climb for Silverlight and the near abdication of the smart phone market to iPhone, Android and Palm Pre), you can see Microsoft has a very formidable challenge to its market position.  And I think Microsoft needs a fundamental shift in order to respond.  That can only come if they take Google's announcement very seriously."

Microsoft regional directors are independent developers, architects, trainers, and other professionals who provide a link between Microsoft and the developer community.

John Cromartie, a developer at Mobomo, said, "Considering the shift in the market towards netbooks and the ubiquity of the web, it really makes sense to have a web-centric OS at the core of the experience. It will be a great thing for netbook consumers if they can get a stable, coherent, focused and well-designed OS for the kinds of computing people are doing with these devices."

However, "The web-app-only model for application development wasn't exactly a hit for the pre-App Store iPhone, but if Chrome OS offers a good API for building web apps that take advantage of OS and device features then it could be a nice platform to work with," Cromartie said. "I'm excited, but we'll just have to wait and see."

In other words, this is yet another validation of how far web app programming model has come, developers said.  People will happily open their netbooks to use the big web apps like Gmail and Facebook, and Google could get some OS revenue out of Microsoft's hands in the process.  But unlike something like Android and the iPhone, which represents less of a shift in the programming model, the Chrome OS seems like a logical extension of it to devices that don't need a full-blown OS, Kersten said.

However, citing the Apple experience, "we have a more recent bit of history repeating with that," Kersten said. "Apple first proposed that developers simply build web apps for the iPhone. That failed. Now all the popular App Store apps are more akin, in terms of programming model, to their desktop app cousins, since they use the OS's widget toolkit and resources.  So as a developer, my main take back from this is that if Google wants the Chrome OS adopted by the developer ecosystem, they will have to be more clear about what that Chrome OS stack is, how it will enable developers to access local resources and hardware on the netbook, and how the browser and thin OS combination will provide a rich enough programming model to compete with Microsoft's inevitable response."

Meanwhile, the ever-prescient Peter Coffee, director of platform research at and former technology editor at eWEEK, linked back to a May 2003 eWEEK column he wrote describing what essentially has become known as the Google Chrome OS.

Yet, in a more recent post, Coffee brings the cloud into the equation, saying:

"If you set out to design an operating system today, I'm sure you'd treat access to the assets of the cloud as a first-class function -- not as a secondary feature of some optional application called a 'browser,' suggesting that the user is casually exploring cyberspace in hope of running across something interesting. Further, you'd design for a model in which the cloud is at least as interesting for what it does as for what it knows: a world of active content, not just static pages or even Web 2.0's interactive communities." 

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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