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Wednesday 9 April Why let the facts cloud an appealing theory? Marc Andreessen, the Netscape co-founder, is credited with many bold, visionary claims such as "Everyone Will Have the Web" ca. But not all of Andreessen's predictions are as ringing and relevant. His proclamation that "The Browser Will Be the Operating System" still reverberates around the web, despite the elusiveness of the concept.
The idea is that we can rid our computing devices of their bulky, buggy operating systems by running apps in the Cloud and presenting the results in a Web browser. As a result, our devices will become more agile and reliable, Operating system and internet browser be less expensive to buy and maintain, and we'll never again have to update their software.
The fly in the ointment is the word connected. As Marc Andreessen himself noted in a Wired interview [emphasis mine]: We must build offline capabilities into our devices, local programs that provide the ability to format and edit text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in the absence of a connection to the big app engines in the cloud.
Easy enough, all you have to do is provide a storage mechanism a. For expressive power, think of media intensive applications.
Photoshop is a good example: It could never work with a browser as the front end because it requires too much bandwidth, and the fidelity of the image is too closely tied to the specifics of the display.
With regard to efficiency, consider the constant low-level optimizations required to conserve battery power and provide agile user interaction, none of which can be achieved in a browser plug-in.
True, developing an app that will run on a standardized platform decreases development costs, but, let's think again, do we really want to go for the lowest common denominator? A single standard sounds comfy and economical but it throttles creativity, and it discourages the development of apps that take advantage of a device's specialized hardware.
Similarly, a world without having to update your device because the cloud always has the latest software is a comforting thought.
Also, a growing number of today's computing devices automatically update themselves. In any case, the discussion may be moot: The people who pay our salaries — customers — blithely ignore our debates.
A recent Flurry Analytics report shows that six years into the mobile revolution, apps continue to dominate the mobile web. Time spent by US consumers in app types and on mobile browsers.
So how did Andreessen get it so wrong? Why was his prediction so wide of the mark?
Although it has been chiselled into the tech history tablets, the quote is apocryphal. Given Microsoft's subsequent misses and Marc Andreessen's ascendency, perhaps we ought to look for other Chip Bayer prophecies… The HotWired piece gives us a clear "asked and answered" Andreessen quote [emphasis mine]: Does the web browser become something like an operating system?
No, it becomes a new type of platform. It doesn't try to do the things an operating system does. Instead of trying to deal with keyboards, mouses, memory, CPUs, and disk drives, it deals with databases and files that people want to secure — transactions and things like that.
We're going to make it possible for people to plug in anything they want. Just search for the phrase on Google and you'll be rewarded with m results such as " 10 reasons the browser is becoming the universal OS " or " The Browser Is The New Operating System ".
We also see stories that present Google's Chrome and Chromebooks as the ultimate verification that the prediction has come true. The nonquote was repeated, gained momentum, and, ultimately, became "truth".
We'll be polite and say that the theory is "asymptotically correct"… while we spend more energy figuring out new ways to curate today's app stores. We have switched off comments on this old version of the site. To comment on crosswords, please switch over to the new version to comment.The operating system and the Internet browser your computer is running are not compatible with the application you are trying to access.
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