When Does a Browser Become an OS?

there’s much hub-bub about the new google chrome being a threat to ie… wait, no.  it’s a threat to firefox and opera and safari.  afterall, it’s a browser.  or even worse, it’s not even a threat to ie6 much less windows!

and then, you have the guys who are saying that it’s a threat to windows.  they, of course, are right, tho none of them have really articulated why it’s a threat to windows.  there’s some “google os!” talk, but no one really lays that out.  it’s kind of a tricky thing to explain it, really.

and, you know me…  i’m here to make things that are hard to explain simple!

so, why is chrome a threat to the traditional os?

1) it has the web.  duh.  the primary activity people do on their computers these days is surf the web.  commerce, entertainment, news — chances are most of your computer-ing day is spent in a browser.

2) it has installed applications.  they’re just now called plugins.  (especially chrome’s new compiled, accelerated javascript!)  and, with google’s new sandboxed, tabbed-process, compiled, hardware-accelerated, non-traditional-browser-windows, non-crashing uber application thing, you have an os.  developers can now have their plugin fire up in an entire, stand-alone tab — erm. excuse me.  an entire, stand-alone “window.”  that means, you have local, “applications” that are “installed” and run in an “os”.  so, imagine a “microsoft word” plugin that runs in the browser.  they can do this where other browsers can’t because each tab is a separate, multi-threaded, hardware accelerated process — just like in a real os.

3) true write once, deploy anywhere.  just like today’s adobe flash player is very, very write once, deploy everywhere type of thing, so too will be plugins.  this is EXTREMELY true with these new-fangled compiled javascript applications chrome allows for.  think about that last bit mixed with #2 above.  so, there will only be ONE application that needs to be written and everyone — no matter if they’re on a mac, windows, linux, whatever — can use it.

4) the flavor of traditional os underneath won’t matter anymore.  just like the bios and drivers and all the other computer plumbing underneath your traditional os doesn’t matter, windows, linux and osx won’t matter.  nobody (other than the occasional SERIOUS nerd) cares about all that stuff because they don’t actively use it.  it comes pre-installed on their computers and worst case, they have to click some sort of “update reminder” thing.  windows, linux and mac will all become boring middleware that the average person doesn’t care about.  because, as #3 above states, they just get their full applications as plugins that work on every single traditional os.

still having issues visualizing all of this? just read back through that comic book and where they talk about a tabbed browser bar think “windows task bar” and where they talk about plugin, think “installed windows application like outlook or word”.

we are on the very cusp of a brave, brave new internet os enabled world and it has nothing to do with any of the profit centers up in redmond.


1 comment so far

  1. […] the Browser as an OS Point chalk another one up to completely missing the point of my explanation of the browser as an os. ┬ábusiness week aparently doesn’t understand the idea of applications as plugins that run in […]

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