Sunday, 12 July 2009

A life-support system for browsers

That is how John Naughton defines Google's new operating system:
[...] There wasn't much technical detail in the company's blog post, but the one thing that is clear is that the new OS will be - in its words - "a natural extension of Google Chrome". It is, they go on to say, "our attempt to rethink what operating systems should be".

If true, we have reached a significant milestone because what the Google guys propose amounts to turning the world upside down. Up to now, the operating system was at the heart of every computing device, transforming the machine from an expensive paperweight into something that could do useful things - running programs, managing displays, handling keyboard and mouse, etc. And because the OS had to be able to do all of this, it was the largest, most complex and most important piece of software of all.

In the old paradigm, the web browser was just another program the OS had to support. When the PC was the platform, that made perfect sense, but that paradigm has been steadily eroding. As broadband penetration increased, more and more people began to get their "computing" services not from their PC but from server farms over the net. Imperceptibly, we have been moving into a world in which, to repeat an old mantra, "the network is the computer".

If the network is indeed the computer, then the browser - our window on to the network - becomes the key piece of software. For many people today, the browser is the only program they really need. So it was only to be expected that somebody would eventually ask why we needed vast, clunky, expensive operating systems (such as Windows Vista, say) when really all that is required is a life-support system for a browser. That's what the Google engineers have asked. Their answer is that only a minimalist OS is now needed, and that is what they are developing - and what millions will be running in the latter part of 2010.
More here in today's Observer on this absolutely fascinating development.

Sunday, 5 July 2009


An interesting post on the potential of the new economy:
[...] Free gets you to a place where you can ask to get paid. But if you don't start with free on the Internet, most companies will never get paid.
Via Tim O'Reilly's Twitter feed. With more apposite remarks from the same source here.

High quality URLs versus writing space

The tension between brevity and discourse, between juxtaposition and expansion, was never more clearly expounded than here. A history of blogging which delineates its two-headed fundamentals with precision. Via John Naughton.

More on smartphones and open source ways of working

With greater freedoms, come ever-increasing dangers. Or so they would have us believe.

There's always supposed to be a downside to digital interconnectedness. As the new head of MI6 gets his Facebook profile cleaned out, a service perhaps the rest of us might wish to make use of one day as we pursue this virtual sharing without really knowing where it will all end, so the spammers attempt to make money out of Michael Jackson's sad demise.

Communication and propaganda stand either side of a highly blurred - and what's more, blurring - line.

Meanwhile, I'm still investigating the virtues of smartphones. One conclusion I've come to is that the future requires us to move towards a model where we may use different applications for related purposes - sometimes, even different applications for the same purpose. No one can ever provide a total answer to any problem. (Anyone who claims they can has already crossed that line I mentioned above.) This is the model of the competitive marketplace, the marketplace of evolutionary - and occasionally revolutionary - development. The age of integrated solutions, where one company decided what its customers needed and provided it within a timeframe it was almost always able to define, is over.

The principles of open source - its tools and ways of working - will inform software and product development in the future, even where its licensing systems may not.