In April, I contributed two articles to the Web Development channel over on Bright Hub:
I’ve recently started an article series over on Bright Hub. The theme of the series is Google Chrome for Linux, and the series blurb states:
Google Chrome is shaking up the status quo for Web browsers. This series explores and expounds Chrome as it evolves for the Linux platform.
So far, there are the following three articles in the series:
- Google Chrome for Linux: Building from Source
- Google Chrome for Linux: Testing and Contributing
- Google Chrome for Linux: Android Availability
I intend to add more … and hope you’ll drop by to read the articles.
When I first wrote about Stainless, I indicated that it provided impressive features/functionalities for a version 0.1 release. In a subsequent post, I elaborated on Stainless’ strengths and weaknesses.
Stainless is now at version 0.2.5. And in the space of a few weeks, Mesa Dynamics has addressed a number of the weaknesses I previously noted. Specifically:
- Download capability – It just works now! Thanks!
- Offline mode – Via Google Gears. Interestingly, I predicted this might take some time. I am so happy to be wrong!!
Earlier today, I started to evaluate Stainless. In this post, it’s my intention to dig a little deeper by sharing more of what you will and won’t get with Stainless.
- Private Browsing – On selecting “File \ New Private Browsing Window”, the Stainless browser that appears makes use of WebKit‘s private browsing mode. In this mode, global history, page caching and storing of AutoFill information are disabled. Spawned tabs and windows inherit the private-browsing mode.
- Single-Point-of-Entry – Obviously you can type in a URL. However, you can also type in a text string (e.g., “Google Chrome”) to initiate a search via Google. In fact, via Stainless’ “Preferences”, you can choose to make use of Google, Yahoo!, Live Search, AOL or Ask.
- Process Management – I alluded to the multiprocess capability of Stainless in the previous post. I’ve just realized that by selecting “Window \ Process Manager” you can monitor and even terminate processes via a simple GUI. Very nice!
- Downloading Capability – I tried to download from a few sites … and all attempts FAILED!! I am shocked and amazed. I saw a Page loading error: Frame load interrupted message appear in the status bar each time … This is disappointing and will hopefully be fixed in version 0.2.
- History – Via Stainless’ “Back” button, there is some notion of history, but that’s it.
- URL Caching/Auto-Completion – URL caching and auto-completion are unavailable.
- An Open Source Version – There’s a significant Open Source aspect to Chrome. Based on proprietary technology developed by Mesa Dynamics for their Hypercube personal-widgetsphere offering, Stainless and Open Source seem unlikely to resonate.
- Cross-Platform Support – Stainless is available for Mac OS X Leopard. Will this offering will be broadened? Unknown.
- Extensibility – This killer functionality is a core competence of Mozilla Firefox. It appears that Chrome will sport something analogous. Stainless? Unknown?
- Offline Mode – I’m thinking of something along the lines of Google Gears … but I don’t see it arriving soon … I installed Gears for Safari. Unfortunately, Stainless gives me the impression that I have Gears support, but in reality (during an offline situation) it’s clear that I don’t. Misleading.
Despite the negatives, I expect to continue to make use of Stainless, and encourage you to do the same.
… the Mac version of Chrome will use a WebCore-rendered bitmap to pass between the browser and rendering processes. The strategy we use in Hypercube (and now Stainless) is far less ambitious, but a whole lot easier to do and, thus, available today for your downloading pleasure (for Leopard only, sorry).
- Performs well – It loads Web pages quickly. And as “ps -alx | grep -i stainless” indicates, Stainless really is a multiprocess browser for OS X. For me, this alone makes Stainless worth the effort.
- Supports AJAX – I’m writing this blog post using Google Docs via Stainless. Stainless worked fine on my initial tests with other Google productivity apps – I tested Google Spreadsheets and GMail. I therefore have some level of comfort in proclaiming it as supporting AJAX. Nice!
Google should not be making Mac and Linux users wait for Chrome.
- There’s a significant guerrilla-marketing campaign in action – the officially unstated competition with Microsoft for ‘world domination’. First Apple (with Safari), and now Google (with Chrome), is besting Microsoft Internet Explorer on Windows platforms. In revisiting the browser wars of the late nineties, it’s crucial for Google Chrome to go toe-to-toe with the competition. And whether we like to admit it or not, that competition is Microsoft Internet Explorer on the Microsoft Windows platform.
- The Mac and Linux ports will come from the Open Source’ing of Chrome … and we need to wait for this … Optimistically, that’s short-term pain, long-term gain.
- Google is risking alienating its Mac and Linux faithful … and this is philosophically at odds with all-things Google.
- It’s 2008, not 1998. In the past, as an acknowledged fringe community, Mac users were accustomed to the 6-18 month lag in software availability. Linux users, on the other hand, were often satiated by me-too feature/functionality made available by the Open Source community. In 2008, however, we have come to expect support to appear simultaneously on Mac, Linux and Windows platforms. For example, Open Source Mozilla releases their flagship Firefox browser (as well as their Thunderbird email application) simultaneously on Mac and Linux as well as Windows platforms. Why not Chrome?
So, what should Google do in the interim:
- Provide progress updates on a regular basis. Google requested email addresses from those Mac and Linux users interested in Chrome … Now they need to use them!
- Continue to engage Mac/Linux users. The Chromium Blog, Chromium-Announce, Chromium-discuss, Chromium – Google Code, etc., comprise an excellent start. Alpha and beta programs, along the lines of Mozilla’s, might also be a good idea …
- Commence work on ‘Browser War’ commercials. Apple’s purposefully understated commercials exploit weaknesses inherent in Microsoft-based PCs to promote their Macs. Microsoft’s fired back with (The Real) Bill Gates and comedian Jerry Seinfeld to … well … confuse us??? Shift to browsers. Enter Google. Enter Mozilla. Just think how much fun we’d all have! Surely Google can afford a few million to air an ad during Super Bowl XLII! Excessive? Fine. I’ll take the YouTube viral version at a fraction of the cost then … Just do it!
For now, the Pareto (80-20) principle remains in play. And although this drives a laser-sharp focus on Microsoft Internet Explorer on the Microsoft Windows platform at the outset, Google has to shift swiftly to Mac and Linux to really close on the disruptiveness of Chrome’s competitive volley.
And I, for one, can’t wait!
I stumbled across this announcement earlier today:
On 30 May, 2008 a newer version of the Notes 8.5 Mac OS X client was posted as part of the FULL Notes/Domino 8.5 Beta 1 release.
When was the last time you were impressed by desktop software?
After seeing (in chronological order) Steve Jobs, Al Gore and Tim Bray make use of Apple Keynote, I absolutely had to give it a try. And impressed I was – and to some extent, still am. For me, this revelation happened about a year ago. I cannot recall the previous instance – i.e., the time I was truly impressed by desktop software.
- Wikipedia states: “There is no page titled “desktop software”.” What?! I suppose you could argue I’m hedging my bets by choosing an obscure phrase (not!), but seriously, it is remarkable that there is no Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”!
- Microsoft, easily the leading purveyor of desktop software, is apparently in trouble. Although Gartner’s recent observations target Microsoft Windows Vista, this indirectly spells trouble for all Windows applications as they rely heavily on the platform provided by Vista.
- There’s an innovation’s hiatus. And that’s diplomatically generous! Who really cares about the feature/functionality improvements in, e.g., Microsoft Office? When was the last time a whole new desktop software category appeared? Even in the Apple Keynote example I shared above, I was impressed by Apple’s spin on presentation software. Although Keynote required me to unlearn habits developed through years of use Microsoft PowerPoint, I was under no delusions of having entered some new genre of desktop software.
- Thin is in! The bloatware that is modern desktop software is crumbling under its own weight. It must be nothing short of embarrassing to see this proven on a daily basis by the likes of Google Docs. Hardware vendors must be crying in their beers as well, as for years consumers have been forced to upgrade their desktops to accommodate the latest revs of their favorite desktop OS and apps. And of course, this became a negatively reinforcing cycle, as the hardware upgrades masked the inefficiencies inherent in the bloated desktop software. Thin is in! And thin, these days, doesn’t necessarily translate to a penalty in performance.
- Desktop software is reaching out to the network. Despite efforts like Microsoft Office Online, the lacklustre results speak for themselves. It’s 2008, and Microsoft is still playing catch up with upstarts like Google. Even desktop software behemoth Adobe has shown better signs of getting it (network-wise) with recent entres such as Adobe Air. (And of course, with the arrival of Google Gears, providers of networked software are reaching out to the desktop.)
The figure below attempts to graphically represent some of the data points I’ve ranted about above.
In addition to providing a summary, the figure suggests:
- An opportunity for networked, Open Source software. AFAIK, that upper-right quadrant is completely open. I haven’t done an exhaustive search, so any input would be appreciated.
- A new battle ground. Going forward, the battle will be less about commercial versus Open Source software. The battle will be more about desktop versus networked software.
So: Is desktop software dead?
Feel free to chime in!
To Do for Microsoft: Create a Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”.
In March 2005, Dan Pink asserted “… the MFA is the new MBA”.
… businesses are realizing that the only way to differentiate their goods and services in today’s overstocked marketplace is to make their offerings physically beautiful and emotionally compelling. Thus the high-concept abilities of an artist are often more valuable than the easily replicated L-Directed skills of an entry-level business graduate.
I can’t think of a better illustration than Steve Jobs’ story of how the Mac became the first computer with beautiful typography.
And of course, true to form, Jobs illustrated Pink’s assertion more than two decades ago.
And since 1984, Jobs and Apple have made the illustration even more compelling with the current generation of Macs, the iPod, and most recently the iPhone.
Note-to-self: Look into MFA programs!
Seemingly not to be out-done by all the buzz surrounding Firefox 3, Apple today (March 18, 2008) released version 3.1 of its Safari Web browser.
Apparently, we’ll love Safari because:
- The UI – Of course. However, this is another area where Firefox 3 has made significant headway. Even on a Mac, Firefox 3’s UI is also elegant and clean. (For an amusing take on the Apple UI paradigm, have a look at this Eric Burke cartoon. I’m not sure how Burke would represent the Mozilla UI … However, one thing’s for sure, it’s become a lot more elegant and cleaner over the years.)
- Find – The Firefox 3 implementation looks remarkably like Safari’s.
- Resizable text areas – Excellent. Not sure if Firefox 3 has this.
Safari 3.1 also presents a twofold irony with respect to Web standards:
- You need to do a little digging (page 8 of the Safari Product Overview) to determine what is meant by Web standards support. And once you do, you’ll learn that it relates to CSS, HTML 5 and SVG. Of these, “HTML 5 offline storage support” has the potential to be most interesting, as Google is analogously demonstrating with Google Gears. So, it’s ironic you need to dig for something that has such value.
- In it’s support of HTML 5, we have a commercial entity (Apple) leading the way in terms of implementing standards. This is refreshing in general, and in particular in Apple’s case, as traditional expectations would have the Open Source implementations (e.g., Firefox) ahead in this regard. To quote Alanis Morissette: “Isn’t it ironic… don’t you think?”
When you factor in support for Windows, and apparently frequent releases, it’s no wonder that Safari is gaining momentum at the expense of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox.
And not that I’ve been following developments with IE, but one has to wonder, if we are to re-visit the IE vs. Netscape browser wars of yesteryear, might the combatants this time be Apple Safari 3.x and Mozilla Firefox 3.x?
One can only hope!