Feeds

How Chrome puts the skids under Nokia

What does Gears mean for the mobile web?

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Analysis Google's first web browser is here, and I've been trying it out.

The diminutive feature set, in line with our expectations of Google, is welcome. However, as with IE7, I find it hard to orient myself in a browser without a menu bar. At the end of the day, as Google put it itself, it's just another WebKit-based browser.

The under-the-hood improvements are similar to what Symbian did with platsec, its platform security model - the rationalising of a process as a unit of security, so that any code that is not part of the code browser runs in its own process, with a policed IPC mechanism to share information between processes.

Chrome applies this process model to plug-ins such as Flash. In my little experiment I didn't notice any significant difference in speed compared with Firefox or Safari on Windows. But the Chrome task manager is a welcome feature. It was insightful to be able to see that the Flash process consumed around 26MB when playing a video, and that Gmail is a 16Mb process.

I'm not that happy with Firefox 3. My browser now crashes daily, or I get an annoying "script is taking too long to execute" message, which paralyses it. So it is nice to see Google bring some computer science principles to the reliability of the browser.

Ultimately, web programming is ugly, full of clumsy advances and organically evolved APIs which are inconsistent across browsers. It's a pain - and Google know this as much as anyone in the industry. Although the timing may be a bit odd, given the rise of Firefox, it arrives as it has become clear that the browser is no more than a commodity item.

The essential features of the browser, like the word processor before it, have already been established. Additional features can be provided by web pages and web services as needed, such as spell checking, centralised bookmark management or RSS feeds.

Perhaps the subtlest but most important feature of Chrome is the bridge between desktop and web applications. The inclusion of Google Gears allows Google's web services to work offline. But Chrome users can also create a shortcut to web pages on their desktop from within Chrome. Clicking on the short cut launches the web page in a minimal "app like" window, with no address bar or navigation buttons.

So now I can have short cuts to Gmail and Google Calendar, and when gears offline support rolls out, they will seem a lot more like a standard desktop applications.

A headache for Nokia

But what about Gears as a credible mobile development API? Google doesn't need Android to succeed to make money. What it needs is a widely adopted platform to deploy its services, and a platform which provides a good user experience and some place to stick adverts. Android feels like a backup plan - a seed for the market sponsored by Google, rather than core business.

I recently wrote about the problem facing Google in getting its applications onto Nokia's phones, since Nokia is unlikely to release its own WebKit-based browser with Gears support. Google has announced Mobile Gears for Windows Mobile, but that only addresses a tiny fragment of the market. Not only does it cost a lot of money to run a service over many incompatible handsets, but technically it’s a tricky job.

But Gears poses potentially greater problems for Nokia. As I see it, Nokia's rebranding as a services company puts some of its services in direct competition with Google. It's not in Nokia's best interests to allow a Google Gears plug-in for its WebKit-based browser.

If the Chrome browser is made available as a S60 download, then Google Mail and other applications will come with offline support as standard, and provide a uniform platform for Google to deploy their services on desktop and mobile.

Nokia has much to lose due to its "service company" aspirations if Gears runs across multiple handsets. Once you have a single sign-on to services from Google, it means that the barrier is lowered for existing subscribers to try out new services. You can’t really make users on mobile type in their email address, password and memorable phrase each time.

The problem for Nokia is that Google is a much stronger service brand, associated with search, mail, maps, even calendar. I can certainly see why Nokia would prefer to go down the silverlight/widget route rather then opening up the browser. ®

Twm Davies is a software developer and consultant. He blogs at mobile rōnin, where these thoughts first appeared.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
Sea-Me-We 5 construction starts
New sub cable to go live 2016
EE coughs to BROKEN data usage metrics BLUNDER that short-changes customers
Carrier apologises for 'inflated' measurements cockup
Comcast: Help, help, FCC. Netflix and pals are EXTORTIONISTS
The others guys are being mean so therefore ... monopoly all good, yeah?
Surprise: if you work from home you need the Internet
Buffer-rage sends Aussies out to experience road rage
EE buys 58 Phones 4u stores for £2.5m after picking over carcass
Operator says it will safeguard 359 jobs, plans lick of paint
MOST iPhone strokers SPURN iOS 8: iOS 7 'un-updatening' in 5...4...
Guess they don't like our battery-draining update?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.