March 3, 2007

Browser OS and applications from Xcerion

Information Week’s story about Xcerion, a Swedish software company building what is pretty much a browser-based (read: XML) operating system is interesting. As the article suggests, if it actually works and they can get it out there it has the potential to radically alter the dynamics of the operating system/application landscape, but they are essentially pitting themselves against Microsoft and Google - that’s a formidable challenge.

On the plus side it does sound like it is relatively easy to code applications for it and you can use the thing offline, which means you could basically carry around your OS (it’s only 2MB), a copy of Firefox and your files on a USB stick and make any host computer your computer.

I ranted a long while back (thankfully before this blog was started) about how I wished browsers would die. This was in the the days (it was 2000-2001) when supporting a range of browsers was a nightmare and everyone had started to pop full-screen Flash windows and do everything in Flash. The browser, at that point, had already become irrelevant. Yet CSS and the newer generation of browsers has pretty much turned that around (except for IE of course which is as lame as ever - though I haven’t tried the new Vista jobbie). I was completely wrong in one sense - browsers are even more part of our working lives - but on the other hand this kind of browser-based OS does away with them again.

From an interface point of view, rather than a free software/portability point of view, I wonder how much value there is in simply re-creating Powerpoint in your browser via Xcerion. Or indeed what happens when you get so much clutter in your browser-based virtual OS (what does one call it?) again. It would be an opportunity to really re-think application integration given the fundamental XML base. Maybe one of you out there has a much better idea of this?

Just to be obtuse I guess I could run it in Parallels in IE so I could have an operating system inside a browser inside an operating system inside another operating system.

One last thing. In Xcerion’s (how do pronounce that) website blurb is this paragraph:

We see ourselves as an Internet Service with a greater goal - Empowering the world with free, yet rich and collaborative software. Making virtually every computer my computer.

My computer? What, making every computer your computer? Hands off! Or is that me as in Time Magazine’s you. It’s all so confusing.

(via Lot 49)