The Web OS from a user/mobile standpoint – A gedankenexperiment .. – How would the WebOS look like to a user?

The Web OS is a hot topic and there is a lot of material out there – some of it more than ten years old ex studies at Berkeley on Web OS from 1996 onwards leading to papers like WebOS: Operating System Services forWide Area Applications(pdf)

Only now, with initiatives like Google Chrome OS – are we seeing the ideas of Web OS incorporated into products

The vision behind a Web OS is more than ‘An operating system for netbooks’ as in the case of Chrome or an ‘Operating System for the Cloud’ as in the case of Microsoft Azure.

If we view the ideas of a Web OS in a ubiquitous environment(and especially to mobile), the impact could be very interesting – and functionally more than the OS itself.

As a gedankenexperiment

What exactly would a web OS look like to an end user? (from a mobile standpoint)

and

What can they do which they currently cannot do.

My take is as follows: From a purist perspective ..

Ex: I (Ajit) meet you(John)

Then I can use my credentials(user name and password) if needed to ‘log on’ to your phone .. in a true WEB OS scenario

Of course, it has some limitations i.e. a phone is a personal device etc .. but in a purist scenario – that’s how the world would look (and the same principle applies to logging on to a TV).

I think it’s a hard concept for people to grasp .. and I am not even sure if the above is a good interpretation

We often talk of the individual elements that enable this scenario – but not of the meaning / services that the Web OS could enable (i.e. simple use cases to explain user benefits)

Enablers of the Web OS could include applications which migrate across hardware platforms, the user’s Identity and data are agnostic of any platform, context aware apps etc etc

But these are the building blocks ..

What would the user see? What can they do which they currently cannot?

Some ideas below:

1) On one hand, we could view Web OS as a natural evolution of the web (offline/local/cache) – which is already happening with HTML5 but it will need more of an encapsulating /security layer to make it happen. Alternately you could treat it as a kind of JVM(conceptually) for the web

But in any case, the best argument I could come up with is as follows: -

a) One of the most important evolutions of the Web is to make it local

b) But we could go beyond just making the Web local(HTML5 already does that)

c) Specifically, If Identity and context become agnostic – then services will be nomadic and personalised.

d) Ironically, they will also need a client footprint and a local client framework which makes the Web local

2) Another definition is : The web OS is the execution environment for cloud applications, where data processing and storage is handled centrally enabling access through any conected device and network…. In this discussion, ‘local’ could mean : To personalize it, To adjust to the device in use, To adjust to the location, To adjust to the profile or to adjust to the service used

3) Adapted from comments from AJ Wright

This takes us into the realm of Mobile Peer to Peer but the ideas need a Web OS

From the side of personal information, this could look like a single calendar that can be opened or shared via a “Share Event” like function. The people who recieve the shared event need to only authenticate themselves against the contact list of the sharer, and then within their calendar they would see the event and all of its associated media. Any updates or changes to that event would be automatically pushed as the user is connected to the calendar on the item level, not necessarly only the user or category level.

More ideas welcome on the wider meaning of the Web OS and it’s impact on mobility

Comments

  1. ARJWright says:

    This sounds a lot like what I am able to do with my mobile web server, and then extending that by simply opening the use of the REST APIs and XML components to allow for others to see, share, and redisseminate content.
    From the side of personal information, this could look like a single calendar that can be opened or shared via a “Share Event” like function. The persons who are being shared the event need to only authenticate versus the contact list of the owner, and then within their calendar they would see the event and all of its associated media. Any updates or changes to that event would be automatically pushed as the user is connected to the calendar on the item level, not necessarly the user or category level.
    This ideal is a good one, it needs a lot more users to make it happen though.

  2. Ajit Jaokar says:

    This is some great insights AJ. I have also been interested in the idea of mobile web servers and I think that while they have been around for a while(ex nokia) – they will really take off in a peer to peer world. keep me posted about your ideas and I shall blog about them seperately. are you at CTIA(fall)? kind rgds Ajit

  3. ARJWright says:

    My only real hiccup with the idea of a weOS is that the idea of an OS might need to be pushed aside. What we are all looking for is simply a way to share information in a machine-readable context that submits to our needs depending on the device and environment. And while that looks in part like an OS, it also looks like standardized and open data formats that enable IP to not be in the information, but how companies allow for that information to be better used by more people (think the Flickr API as a good example).
    I think that in this mind of thought, maybe the idea of a webOS is really simply saying API frameworks that work wherever, and companies build their basis not from holding things in a locked garden, but by keeping them open, building the kinds of services that actually makes them more useful.

  4. Shawn says:

    I wrote about this recently on my own blog, here:
    http://bit.ly/5r0kA
    To summarize, I believe the whole App Store paradigm will not scale as other platforms grow. Companies will not want to develop, maintain and support native apps for iPhone, RIM, Symbian, Android, etc., for things that should really be delivered through a browser. There’s no reason, for example, that Facebook should run as a native app on your mobile device.
    I’m not sure about a WebOS though. I still think there will be a place for native, non-cloud apps. I think devices will have both a native OS and one or more web browsers, just as your laptop does. (netbooks will not kill the laptop).
    Browsers will have to get better in a few ways. Perhaps most importantly, web apps will need to be able to talk to your device’s phone, camera, GPS, media player and other native functions.