Speculations on Google Chrome OS
Today’s announcement of Google’s Chrome OS is exciting in a few ways. I think it has implications for Java developers. With hindsight, I now think that Larry Ellison was hinting about Google’s Chrome OS when he expressed some of his desires for JavaFX on small netbook-like devices.
So, without any real knowledge and armed with nothing more than a vivid imagination, I provide some of my predictions/speculations for the upcoming Google Chrome OS and the devices it will power:
- Google Chrome OS will be a slightly more beefy Android OS. More beefy because it will have additional hardware driver support you might find in a netbook. However, its essence will be Android OS.
- The Chrome browser (or a slimmed down cousin) will be the primary application on that OS. It’s already integrated into Android via Webkit
- The developer API will be very similar to what Android G1 developers already use. Android G1 apps are essentially Java apps written to a Java-like API. Same Java language on top of the most important, core packages of the Java SE platform. And, of course, Google won’t be able to call it a “Java” platform because it will be stripped down to what Google engineers consider only the core, “good” parts of Java SE APIs + Google’s own Android APIs of course.
- Google Chrome OS will be attractive to Java engineers because it looks and feels so much like the the JVM…except it’s really the Dalvik VM. Many simple applications that run on Java SE will be able to run on the Dalvik VM after a recompile. Or maybe you’ll just have to run your class files through a simple converter to target the Dalvik VM. At any rate, Java developers will feel right at home.
- Google Chrome OS devices will need to get onto the network easily, seamlessly, regardless of Wi-Fi availability. Google really does believe that “the network is the computer”. Without the internet, these devices will be severely hampered. Expect these devices to have multiple network access technologies built in. Wifi hardware will obviously be on board. But you can imagine it also having a cellular transmitter/receiver built-in too.
- Remember all that cellular radio spectrum that Google was interested in only one or two years back? Wouldn’t it be just an awesome thing if Google purchased a huge portion of that and used it to make their Google Chrome OS devices be able to instantly jump onto that for network access? You buy the device, punch in a pre-purchased code for access, and your notebook is on the net in 5 minutes! It will be incredibly, insanely easy to get on the network with your Google Chrome OS-powered device.
- Hey, what’s that Google Voice project anyway. Only one of the coolest telephony projects around! Maybe Google will leverage this service? Here’s a scenario for you: you buy a Google Chrome OS device, open it up, agree to the terms of a Google voice membership, get a Google voice number and Google account (if you don’t already have one), and the device then connects to the network using the built-in cellular hardware to connect to some of that cellular spectrum that Google will or has already purchased.
- After all of this, or perhaps even before this, we all start to feel a little uneasy about just how pervasive Google really is. And despite Google’s mistrust and derision of Microsoft, they begin to look a little bit like Microsoft too…really, really big and really, really powerful and located at every digital turn. But this time, instead of controlling your PC, they control your network. Ooh, there’s a suspenseful novel in there somewhere.
Ok, some of that’s just silly, crazy talk…or is it? We’ll see over the next few months.
Oh, one last thing. I just cannot resist the urge to compare Google Chrome OS to Sun’s Java OS. Do you remember that? I could hardly find any references to it, although I did find an old article called Inside the IBM JavaOS Project. At some point, Sun apparently enslisted IBM to help. At any rate, the Java OS project started (and ended) a long, long time ago. It’s been a decade at least. Remember the Hot Java browser? I actually ran it and used it. I remember that one of our tests at Sun was to run the SwingSet demo on it. But now I’m just distracted. What was I saying? Oh yes, there are even more similarities. Java OS is to Google Chrome OS as the Hot Java browser is to the Chrome browser. Maybe Google Chrome OS will finally be the successful reincarnation of JavaOS?
It’s all fun to think about, and as I suggested, pure speculation at this point.