28 May, 2013

Aura + Ash, one year later: How Chrome OS has matured

Chrome OS. No other operating system has created such a schism among the press. Either it's praised or it's despised. Either it's loved or it's hated. One thing is certain, however: Who is it hated by? Those who used the immature version of Chrome OS that hasn't existed for more than a year.

Back in May 2012, the Aura window manager and Ash desktop made it to the Stable Channel. That would make it one year old... well, actually, possibly more than that (don't quite remember the exact release date). And my, has it made progress! There is no denying that Chrome OS, thanks to Aura and Ash, is now easy enough to use that anyone who is upset with the route Microsoft took with Windows 8 shouldn't have any problems whatsoever with Chrome OS. Well, at least if they looked in the right positions...

Fast forward to May 2013, and Aura and Ash have improved all the more. From an API that allows Web apps to install themselves locally and run outside the browser frame, to improvements to the app launcher and the introduction of customization features like the ability to change the launcher position, there's no doubt Chrome OS is more mature than ever. Even with apps that run on the Web all the time, Chrome OS is quickly becoming what many of the giants fear: not just a "browser OS" that can only run Web apps, but a full-fledged runtime environment that is the same thing to HTML5 that Android is to Java.

Yes, that's right, Chrome OS packaged apps will turn Chrome OS into the perfect toolkit to allow HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript to run offline, outside the browser frame, and in a near-native standalone fashion. In fact, thanks to <webview> elements and other powerful APIs only available to packaged apps, it's actually possible to write something that should even make antitrust lawyers happy: a browser within a browser!

That's not all. Packaged apps can also do amazing things like access hardware devices (USB, Bluetooth, microphone, etc), prevent dimming of the screen, listen for launch events, send users push notifications, access syncable file systems that sync between clients along with the app, and much more (you can see an exhaustive list here if you're interested).

Most importantly, packaged apps, just like their hosted counterparts, are seamlessly synced between clients. So, there's absolutely no need whatsoever to install packaged apps over and over; even with packaged apps, Chrome OS is still Chrome OS, and is every bit as secure and seamless as it always has been.

So, to the naysayers: Enough nonsense. Microsoft and Apple are becoming so paranoid that Chrome OS, which is, pardon me, 99.9999% open source, is starting to take hold that they would bribe any gullible blogger with millions of dollars just to bash Google and keep people from seeing the cold hard truth. Well, those days are over. Chrome OS is no longer the "browser OS" that people should laugh at. It's quickly becoming the OS that is easy to use, seamless, data loss-proof, secure, AND fully functional offline, all simultaneously, which is an OS that's bound to instill fear in ALL who attack it.