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Will the Mobile Web Kill Off the App Store? | Gadget Lab | Wired.com December 19, 2009

Posted by pannet in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets.
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The debate over the longevity of native software continues. Mozilla, creator of Firefox, claims that its new browser for smartphones will contribute to the death of smartphone app stores.

Scheduled to begin appearing on devices at the end of this year, the Firefox mobile browser, code-named Fennec, will be packed with features to make it the closest thing yet to a real, desktop-class browser. (Wired.com’s Mike Calore has a detailed look at Fennec.) Mozilla claims it will have the fastest JavaScript engine of any mobile browser, allowing developers to produce HTML- and JavaScript-coded apps for Fennec rather than for multiple smartphone platforms, such as iPhone OS, Google Android or Windows Mobile.

“In the interim period, apps will be very successful,” said Jay Sullivan, vice president of Mozilla’s mobile division, in an interview with PC Pro. “Over time, the web will win because it always does.”

Web proponents such as Mozilla and Google dream that internet standards will enable any app to run on any device, just as Java proponents touted a “write once, run anywhere” vision in the 1990s. Similarly, Adobe’s Flash emerged as a cross-platform environment for creating animations, games and apps for the web. But many consumers and developers have complained that Java and Flash exhibit bugs, performance problems and security vulnerabilities, among other issues. And Java’s promises of universality didn’t quite work out, because different implementations of the Java virtual machine (not to mention wildly varying hardware capabilities) mean that, even today, Java coders need to rework their apps for each target device.

But web proponents maintain that the wide acceptance of next-generation internet standards, particularly HTML5, will win out where Java failed.

It’s a tempting vision. Currently, when deciding whether to buy a Mac or a PC, an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, or an iPhone or a Droid, you need to consider which applications you’ll be able to run on each one. If programmers head in the direction of the web, then ideally you’ll be able to gain access to any application regardless of the computer or smartphone you own.

Google is attempting to lead the web movement. The search giant is pushing its web-only regime with Chrome OS, its browser-based operating system for netbooks that will run only web applications. Also, in July, Google’s engineering vice president and developer evangelist Vic Gundotra said in a conference that mobile app stores have no future.

“Many, many applications can be delivered through the browser and what that does for our costs is stunning,” Gundotra was quoted in a Financial Times report. “We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that’s where Google is investing.”

But iPhone developers and analysts polled in July by Wired.com explained the problems with current web technologies, and some highlighted the merits of native-app architecture.

Interpet analyst Michael Gartenberg noted that many iPhone apps are a combination of native and web technologies, because many apps download or share data through the internet. He said it’s beneficial for the apps to be native, because they’re programmed to take full advantage of the iPhone’s hardware.

“It’s odd that Google feels the need to position as one versus the other,” Gartenberg said in July. “That’s last century thinking…. It’s not about web applications or desktop applications but integrating the cloud into these applications that are on both my phone and the PC. Ultimately, it’s about offering the best of both worlds to create the best experience for consumers — not forcing them to choose one or the other.”

With Firefox’s mobile browser rolling out soon, we have yet to see how consumers and developers react to Mozilla’s attempt to spark a web-only exodus.

via Will the Mobile Web Kill Off the App Store? | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.

Say Hello to the Google Tablet December 19, 2009

Posted by pannet in Mobile & Gadgets.
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There’s a hot web tablet coming next year, perhaps you’ve heard rumors about it? The tablet will be a simple slate that is designed to do one thing well, surf the web. It will be thin and light, and the 10-inch screen will sit in a package that is a no-frills design. It will be a simple slate device, comfortable to use in the hands for hours of tapping into the Internet.

The tablet will not run a “full” OS, that would be overkill. It will be designed from the ground up to work with the web. It will not be expected to replace full compute functionality for everyone, it will just do the web. It will do the web flawlessly, however, as that will be the entire purpose of this web tablet. It will leverage all web technology well, from Flash to HTML5, and that will open up a magical web experience. This tablet will not be coming from Apple as you might have thought, it will be coming from Google.

This new device will not run Intel processors, that would be overkill. It will rather be based on ARM technology, as that will provide all of the oomph needed to run the web stuff. It will have Wi-Fi and integrated 3G, as that will allow it to stay connected to the web all the time, using the fastest pipe available. It will be connected to the Google cloud, and the guts of the tablet, which are basically the same as that in smartphones, will mean it will be getting email and other pushed information even when sitting to the side.

The connection is important, as a good web tablet is a cloud computer through and through. All data will reside in the cloud, all apps will be web apps. Local storage will be kept at a minimum as it won’t be needed. The interface will be designed around working with the web, and it will be optimized for touch. It will not be a smartphone interface blown up to fit the bigger screen, it will be designed from the ground up to fit the display.

The slate will provide a great window into all of the major social networks that are popular. It will be able to visit any web site and deliver a great browsing experience. The philosophy behind the design will center around the understanding that most of the user’s needs for the tablet will center around the web, and it will do that as well as any computer can.

If this sounds like the Google Chrome OS that is coming next year, then you catch on quickly. Google is going to set the mobile world on fire next year with the introduction of Chrome, and a tablet is the perfect vehicle to showcase its strengths. I believe the smart folks at Google will single-handedly bring credibility to the smartbook genre, as Chrome netbooks will be smartbooks by their very design. They won’t be called smartbooks, they will simply be Google Computers. Google won’t be content to stay with the notebook form factor, as it is a simple jump to a tablet form.

A slate makes sense on so many levels that I believe Google is already thinking about one. The constant buzz about an Apple tablet, and with the strange situation surrounding the CrunchPad/ JooJoo, demonstrates the interest in a web tablet. Google already has everything in place to produce one based on the Chrome OS, and produce one better than anyone else. Such a Google ChromePad would be aimed at distributing through phone carriers with data plans, and could be produced cheaply enough to make them virtually free with typical subsidies.

The Google Tablet would be sold in major retail outlets, in addition to carrier distribution. Imagine how many tablets would be moved in a very short time if consumers could walk in Walmart and pick one up for free, or nearly free, and be online in just a few minutes. It won’t take long for most people to realize that most everything they do outside the work environment is now centered around the web, making a Google Tablet the most useful thing they own.

We may see a tablet from Apple, if the constant rumors pan out. But an Apple tablet will be expensive, making it a niche product. Google can make deals with anyone they want to build their tablet, and cheaper is better than expensive. The Chrome OS core will straddle the smartphone/ computer fence, providing a richer user experience than an iPhone OS tablet from Apple. Google has everything in place to do this, and do it right. I think they’ll take advantage of that situation.

via Say Hello to the Google Tablet.

// More info why Google should make a tablet to be found here at gizmodo

Google’s Chrome for Mac has arrived | VentureBeat December 9, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities.
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chrome_macGoogle has now launched Google Chrome for Mac. Of course it’s still in beta testing, but at least it’s now out the door.

The delay in the Mac version of the Google Chrome web browser was a big disappointment for Google. Co-founder Sergey Brin stated this publicly at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco.

Luckily that wait ends today. Mac users can now surf the web using a faster and lighter browser, compared to Firefox. However, unlike Safari, Chrome doesn’t have a toolbar. So you would have to familiarize yourself with the complete lack of buttons at the top. The Mac version ships with themes right out of the box. So if customization is your thing, Chrome won’t disappoint you.

In addition to launching Chrome for Mac users, Google has also turned the switch on Google extensions for Windows and made them available for everyone. Previously, extensions were just available to developers. Extensions or plug-ins were one area where Chrome seriously lacked Firefox. I, for one, seriously missed the possibility to tweak Chrome and extend it to my liking, like the way I used to do with Firefox. Some of the popular extensions include Google Mail Checker, Bubble Translate, Xmarks for Chrome Beta, Google Reader, and Chromed Bird.

via Google’s Chrome for Mac has arrived | VentureBeat.

What are Google’s real motivations behind Chrome OS? | VentureBeat November 29, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets.
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Chrome OS is Google’s latest entry into the consumer space. It is designed to be an operating system that runs on customized hardware and provides the user with only a state-of-the art browser running  HTML-5 and some plugins. The tech (and mainstream) media has seen no shortage of opinions about its meaning and future impact on the industry. Unfortunately, I think most people have missed some of the key implications of Chrome OS.

[As a disclosure, I am a former Google employee, having worked there from 2002 to 2008, but I don’t have any inside information on this project. In fact I didn’t even know of its existence before I left.]

Google has two main aims with this project:

  • To use the Google brand and buzz about its “game-changing OS” to push for new and better web apps using nascent technology. This lets Google reduce its customers’ dependence on local apps it does not control.
  • Once a lot of these apps are deployed and become heavily used, the mass market will force owners of closed systems like the iPhone to implement support for  HTML-5, the latest version of HTML, and rich web interfaces. Coupled with  net neutrality (which Google currently strongly supporting) this will allow Google to circumvent uncooperative devices and network providers, and access consumers currently hidden behind locked system.

via What are Google’s real motivations behind Chrome OS? | VentureBeat.

Here is a more detailed analysis:

(more…)

Video: Google Chrome OS’s Interface, 7 Second Boot Time, And More November 20, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets.
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This morning Google unveiled its much-anticipated new operating system, Google Chrome OS. We were there to liveblog the event, and we also captured a portion of the live video stream that Google was broadcasting. This clip below includes a look at Chrome’s incredibly short boot time (clocking in at only around 7 seconds for a cold boots), some of the apps ChromeOS will be able to run, and the operating system’s interface. Google says that the UI will likely change significantly before Chrome OS ships, but this gives us some idea about how it will work.

Check out the video below.

And here’s a video Google just posted showing off Chrome’s UI:

via Video: Google Chrome OS’s Interface, 7 Second Boot Time, And More.

Bill Gates on Google’s Chrome OS: Nothing New Here July 15, 2009

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Microsoft (MSFT) chairman Bill Gates is finally having his say on Google’s (GOOG) wonderfully overblown Chrome OS announcement. His take: It’s just another Linux distro.

“There’s many, many forms of Linux operating systems out there and packaged in different ways and booted in different ways,” Gates told News.com’s Ina Fried. “In some ways I am surprised people are acting like there’s something new. I mean, you’ve got Android running on Netbooks. It’s got a browser in it.”

And, you know. The man’s got a point. The emperor has no clothes. Or if it does, it’s an old “Linux: Live Free or Die” T-shirt.

Gates’s remarks follow similar comments from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who yesterday said he’s not quite sure what the big deal about Chrome is either. “Who knows what that thing is,” he said.

Do you think he is right?

via Bill Gates on Google’s Chrome OS: Nothing New Here | John Paczkowski | Digital Daily | AllThingsD.

Google Bets Big on HTML 5 May 27, 2009

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“Never underestimate the web,” says Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra in his keynote at Google I/O this morning.[…]

Vic pointed out that the rate of browser innovation is accelerating, with new browser releases nearly every other month. The slide below, from early in Vic’s talk, shows the progress towards the level of UI functionality found in desktop apps through adoption of HTML 5 features in browsers. This looks like one of Clayton Christensen’s classic “disruptive innovation vs sustaining innovation” graphs. It’s also fascinating to see how mobile browsers are in the forefront of the innovation.

browser_innovation.png

While the entire HTML 5 standard is years or more from adoption, there are many powerful features available in browsers today. In fact, five key next-generation features are already available in the latest (sometimes experimental) browser builds from Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Google Chrome. (Microsoft has announced that it will support HTML 5, and as Vic noted, “We eagerly await evidence of that.”) Here’s Vic’s HTML 5 scorecard:

  1. The canvas element provides a straightforward and powerful way to draw arbitrary graphics on a web page using Javascript. Sample applications demoed at the show include a simple drawing area and a simple game. But to see the real power of the Canvas element, take a look at Mozilla’s BeSpin. Bespin is an extensible code editor with an interface so rich that it’s hard to believe it was written entirely in Javascript and HTML.
  2. The video element aims to make it as easy to embed video on a web page as it is to embed images today. No plugins, no mismatched codecs. See for example, this simple video editor running in Safari. And check out the page source for this YouTube demo. (As a special bonus, the video is demonstrating the power of O3D, an open source 3D rendering API for the browser.)
  3. The geolocation APIs make location, whether generated via GPS, cell-tower triangulation or wi-fi databases (what Skyhook calls hybrid positioning) available to any HTML 5-compatible browser-based app. At the conference, Google shows off your current location to any Google map, and announces the availability of Google Latitude for the iPhone. (It will be available shortly after Apple releases OS 3.) What’s really impressive about Latitude on the phone is that it’s a web app, with all the platform independence that implies, not a platform-dependent phone application.
  4. AppCache and Database make it easy to build offline apps. The killer demo is one that Vic first showed at Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco a few months ago: offline gmail on an Android phone. But Vic also shows off a simple “stickies” app running in Safari.
  5. Web workers is a mechanism for spinning off background threads to do processing that would otherwise slow the browser to a crawl. For a convincing demo, take a look at a web page calculating primes without web workers. As the demo says, “Click ‘Go!’ to hose your browser.” Then check out the version with web workers. Primes start appearing, with no hit to browser performance. Even more impressive is a demo of video motion tracking, using Javascript in the browser.

As Vic said to me in an interview yesterday morning, “The web has not seen this level of transformation, this level of acceleration, in the past ten years.”

Vic ends the HTML 5 portion of his keynote with hints of an announcement tomorrow: “Don’t be late for the keynote tomorrow morning.”

via Google Bets Big on HTML 5: News from Google I/O – O’Reilly Radar.

First look: Google Chrome 2.0 – Fast but lacking features May 22, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities.
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Google has released Chrome 2.0. The speed-demon browser gets an additional kick of speed, a few more features, and a load of bug fixes.

First, let’s look at the speed side of things. Google’s Chrome browser was already fast, but the 2.0 update loads JavaScript-heavy web pages about 30% faster than version 1.0. Benchmark tests I’ve run seems to suggest that this claim holds true, and in fact when version 2.0 is compared against version 1.0 using Google’s V8 benchmark, the newer browser is twice as fast.

So, there’s plenty of speed available. But what about features?

via First look: Google Chrome 2.0 – Fast but lacking features | Hardware 2.0 | ZDNet.com.

Google Chrome Comics – another way of white paper March 29, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities.
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On a quite interesting reportage about one of the genius developer behind Google Chrome (Lars Bak – The genius behind Google’s web browser) is a hint to “specially commissioned comic”, which tells the story behind Google Chrome. It’s definitely another way of a white paper ;-)

Google Chrome Comic.

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