by Eric Pettifor
Last year at this time I predicted that a small revolution in web apps would occur in 2010, thanks to the introduction of Google Chrome OS, and may have implied that this would have a negative effect on the iPhone. I also expressed the opinion that, if all went well with the Google branded Nexus phone, Microsoft would follow with one of their own.
This year I will have to revise and amend somewhat, since Google did not introduce Chrome OS mid-year as planned, so the fallout from that will have to wait until the first half of 2011. Daniel Eran Dilger has written a piece on this over at appleinsider.com. Perhaps not surprising given the source, it has a bit of a pro-Apple bias. Dilger notes, for example that “Unlike the Chrome OS, these machines [Apple laptops and desktops] can run native Mac apps, can host X11 Linux apps, and can even run Windows apps in a virtualization environment.” This suggests that he doesn’t get it, in spite of having extensively quoted Google’s intention earlier in the article:
”Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems,” the company blogged last summer.
“We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up,” the company explained.
“They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.”
It is Google’s intention to out-iPad the iPad by offering a world where you don’t have to worry about apps or backups or where your data is, a world in which everything “just works.” A paranoid geek like myself won’t allow Chrome OS anywhere near any of my devices, because I care about where my data is and who has access to it and things like administrative access. It’s bad enough that they have my email, I’m not handing over everything to the buggers, even if they are my favourite corporation.
But that’s just curmudgeonly old me. If they can deliver on this vision of drop dead easy computing, Steve Jobs will find himself in the position of having to play catch up, and Microsoft will then play catch up to Jobs. Technologically it won’t be difficult for either of them. The killer will be that while they sell their stuff, Google gives it away free. That could be a very difficult dime for them to turn on.
In other 2011 news: I’m not going to predict the demise of the iPhone. That’s one area that I think is fairly secure for Apple. Though with Nokia’s introduction of the N8, I wonder if the iPhone won’t become just a normal smartphone, ceding the high end to others.
You may have seen articles like this one over at pocketgamer.biz, suggesting that Nokia isn’t doing so well against Apple since the iPhone is outselling the N8 by six to one even in Nokia’s home territory of Europe. (Pro-Nokia site noknok.tv offers a rebuttal.)
This is a little like comparing sales of Rolls Royce to BMW, and, if Apple doesn’t up the ante soon, maybe Lexus. The techno-elite have already turned in their iPhones, and now it is just for little girls. (I’m only partially kidding — Sara Yin over at pcmag.com reports that when considering the purchase of a smartphone, men prefer Android, women the iPhone.)
Microsoft did not release their own branded smartphone this year, instead simply releasing a new OS for phones, Windows Phone 7. I’m not going to predict a Microsoft branded phone for 2011. I think Google’s motivation for the Nexus was sluggish uptake of Android by third parties, and if Microsoft finds themselves in a similar situation, perhaps they will adopt a similar strategy. But if they haven’t copied Google by now, I don’t think they’re going to, especially if it is strongly adopted, or even moderately well adopted.
So if I can’t predict the death of the iPhone, whose demise can I predict? Ah, yes, the overused and much abused Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash. And who will kill it? A new specification for web pages, HTML5. This specification provides for much greater support of multimedia content. When those Chrome OS web apps come rolling out, they won’t use Flash. Look for them to be written in HTML5 with other supported specifications (for example, the latest in cascading style sheets [CSS]), and associated technologies. Flash will be a thing of the past.
The revolution has not been cancelled. Merely postponed. Until then, best wishes for the holidays and the new year.