Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The iPad and the new GoogleOS

I like it.

Apple's insistence on using storage to differentiate pricing is an OK idea, but the price difference between models is hard to support.

Anyway, in my last post I dreamt of my ideal device. Now that the iPad has been seen by most, you could visualise my ideal device as an iPad that folds in half.

It, of course, needs a camera, needs to work as a phone and needs to run ChromeOS, but otherwise it is close.

Folded in half it would be about 7.5"x4.8" (190mm x 120mm), 1" (25mm) thick.

The Future

I think the PC has matured and is in decline. 

Netbooks have harmed the laptop market. Their low cost and high portability has meant that laptops and desktop have had to cut margins to sell. Microsoft too, has probably had to reduce margins to ensure their OS - old as it is - is the de-facto standard. I recently saw that Aldi advertised a 17" Core II Duo laptop with everything you could need for $900 AU. Even though it is many times better in almost every respect, the market wants laptops to be sub $1000 AU.

Where a big laptop fails is it's size. Consumers have their adequate 15" laptop or their 22" desktop and it still does the job just fine - even with Windows XP. They now want to be free to roam around their homes or around town with a take-anywhere Netbook.

They have their big-screen touch phones too. Great as a phone and as a media player but they are not too good at web browsing. So a market is born: a small screen web browser.

The Netbook was first and does the job by scaling down a laptop so that it is ultra portable. Apple thought better, and made a smaller device that still offered a 10" screen that could be used in portrait or landscape. And they added 3G for that always-on experience.

What the iPhone, Androids and Nokia's have shown, is that the new killer-app is an app store. A place to buy your software, be it office applications, games, music, video, books or just cool toys.

The OS is irrelevant.

The design is far more important than the hardware. Low powered computers are fast enough - adequate. You don't need to worry about storage, frame rates, resolution and interfaces since they have everything that you typically need. Now it is more important to consider looks, weight, portability, battery life and Apps.

What Apple and Google have also done is to reduce the risk of malware by selecting the ARM microprocessor and a more secure-by-design operating system. ARM processors don't allow some of the techniques used to cause a PC to execute foreign code, and UNIX and Linux have demonstrated that they are resistant to malware.

Apps too, are more likely to be web apps - based on HTML and JavaScript. These can be easily sandboxed to protect the OS and other core applications and services. Google also has their Native Client which allows native compiled code to run safely and securely on a PC or ARM machine.

A new OS will enter the scene.

Perhaps a few. Windows will decline as more devices are sold with Android, Linux and OS-X. I don't think Symbian will survive either.

If the OS is irrelevant then it will shrink and become a specific purpose, custom OS for the particular device. If all the applications run in a browser then applications will no longer depend on OS services. Instead they will mostly depend on browser services - the browser is the new OS and it includes the secure, windowing/graphics environment for games, music, videos, office applications and browsing.

Recently Google released a new programming language called Go. To me, it seems to be a descendant of a language designed at Bell Labs called Newsqueak. Rob Pike developed Newsqueak and is also developing Go. Ken Thompson, who also worked at Bell Labs, is also part of the Go development effort at Google. Both Newsqueak and Go are used to do systems programming - a language to build or experiment with operating systems. Why would Google want that - they use Linux don't they?

Ken Thompson and Rob Pike both worked on Plan 9 and it's descendent, Inferno, which was open-sourced in 2005.

I think Google is looking to use Go to compile a descendant of Inferno to become the base OS for Google and Android. Why? Go makes concurrent programming easy, and future servers and appliances are going to have lots of CPUs and GPUs.


This is a video (2007) of Rob Pike talking about Newsqueak, Plan-9 and a toy window system.