Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In Development: Google Web Browser to Replace Retail Software

Google Inc.'s plans for a new operating system based on its Chrome Web browser is a big bet that online programs can eventually surpass desktop software.

Now the Internet giant is pushing hard to make that happen, enticing developers to take advantage of several technologies to improve the speed, aesthetics and reliability of software running in a Web browser.

Google is trying to spur a new market for software that can run entirely in a Web browser, such as Google Docs. The search giant believes that online applications will be one of its next big businesses, as its core search and search-advertising businesses mature.

But it faces heavy competition, including from rival Microsoft Corp., which Monday announced it will offer online versions of its popular Office software to consumers free.

Web browsers originally were used mainly to view static pages of text and images. Their capabilities for playing video and animation have improved using technologies such as Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash -- software that is used by Google's YouTube service -- and others that require users to download a program called a plug-in.

But browsers still can't typically handle many chores conventional PC software users take for granted, like some mechanisms for copying and pasting text and playing games that use three-dimensional graphics.

Google hopes to change that by accelerating the adoption of HTML 5, the acronym for an extension of the hypertext markup language that is a foundation of the Web. The proposed programming standards -- which are likely years from being finalized, and include technology from Google and others -- are designed to let developers build more advanced applications that can run within a browser.

A number of software developers and browsers have already incorporated some aspects of HTML 5, such as faster video streaming and storing more data in the browser for faster retrieval -- all without having to download additional software.

Google is actively pushing for inclusion of features such as ability to drag and drop files from a desktop into a Web browser, a PC-style function not typically possible now, and support for 3D graphics, he said.

Google and other backers of HTML 5 believe that over time, plug-ins won't be necessary as browsers become more powerful.

Online software can't typically launch automatically when a computer starts-up or send updates and notifications when users close their Web browsers, he says.

Dozens of companies are also developing technology to bring more parity between desktop and online software.
WSJ 7-13-09

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