Thursday, July 9, 2009

What is the web missing?

This week's announcement of an entirely web-based operating system in Google Chrome OS has sparked a lot of discussion. Google's strategy for now seems to be to invade the netbook space, an area where an offering like Chrome OS could do well. Netbooks, by their very nature (and name) are designed around internet use and there are very few day to day activities that you can't do in the "cloud." The unanswered question is where google will go with this product after netbooks. They have alluded to branching into the desktop market but there are still a number of areas where a purely internet based OS won't work, for now.

Since reading about C.O.S. I have been wondering what market opportunities are out there if suddenly the web becomes the operating system. What areas of computing still demand a rich desktop environment over a web application and what could be done to move past that. A few things came to mind.

First one that is near and dear to my heart - software development. Right now us code monkeys do most of our work in an editor/IDE running code locally on our machines before promoting it to some sort of shared environment, be it a testing environment or for the more radical straight to production. The fanciest of us use tools and practices like XUnit, BDD and various code metrics applications. Right now there is no purely cloud based implementation of this. In order to move software development onto the web you could need some combination of a hosted virtual development machine with a web interface and the appropriate tooling to make that work. We would need a web-based programmers text editor (yes i know people have ported VI to javascript.) Also I'd like to wish visual studio .NET and eclipse the best of luck in converting their UI to a website.... hah.

The next area of computing that came to mind is a bit more consumer oriented - music. Yes Pandora rocks. So does Last.FM, but their service isn't really the same as say iTunes. In order for the web to become THE computing platform we would need a hosted service where you could listen to your music library, make playlists and browse new music. Also... and here's the fun part... we have to figure out how to sync this to an iPhone / iPod / Zune / whatever.

The last, and possibly most obvious one, is gaming. A service like OnLive would help but who knows when that will be out.

So what other areas of computing currently need a traditional OS?


  1. Originally from Nate Klaiber -

    These are many questions I had yesterday when hearing about Google's OS. My first thought was: meh. I am not at the point yet where I like the idea of everything being stored in a cloud. I like having my machine with me and always having access to my stuff without having to offline sync (or the like). It's why I have a laptop. I have security concerns as well, for an array of different reasons.

    I am still trying to process it all. Trying to think of a world without an OS and just a browser. Where everything takes place inside of that browser. For now: I don't like the idea. I look forward to learning more and following this progress, though.

  2. Ya i'm kinda in the same boat.

    I can't see Chrome OS being a viable OSX replacement just yet but I do like the movement. I like the notion of making as much as possible available on the web.

    I'm not as concerned about cloud storage as you I think, although I'm not a ran of storing my content in one place. If my photos are on say, facebook, i want them to also be backed up to mozy or some other service. If a system is closed and I can directly access my data I'm not interested.