WebOS, Web Operating Systems, and HTTP enabled Operating Systems. It seems that everybody in the space is trying to coin the term and the one term that everybody wants to claim their own is a Web Operating System. How and where could people come up with this term? Operating Systems are what launched the world of computing into what it is today. It’s taken a series of underlying frameworks and technology, such as command line, GUI, and touch to allow applications to launch and functionality to spread across the world. What is the next step?
We can track Operating Systems through their entire evolution. It was an agreement between MS-DOS and IBM that spread personal computing around the United States. The DOS API and kernel allowed an level of architecture that spread compatibility and features to everybody. Command line operating systems revolutionized and made it easy for users to interact with systems until the introduction of the Apple Lisa and Microsoft Windows.
Introducing a completely graphical user interface spread computers to even further reaches. The ease-of-use equipped with using a two part mouse and keyboard system grew the potential user-base to a much greater stage. The draw-bridge opened up to users who’s only purpose of using a computer was to play Solitaire, inevitably as comfort grew, computers began to play a primary role in every person’s life.
The evolution of these technologies really comes when all the pieces can fit together. In the GUI space, Xerox and Apple were extremely innovative, but struggled in gaining ground against the enormous Microsoft. Therefore Windows flourished and continues to do so. But in the next round of evolution was to bring your technology mobile. All of the companies out there, including Apple, were not able to bring the rest of the world to mobile devices until mobile devices brought the users what they wanted first, Music! Hence, the iPod spurt the growth of the mobile world and Touch inputs with portable technology grew a new OS, the Mobile OS to places even deeper than those that a PC could reach.
Now what is the future? Google seems to be on the forefront of inventing things called Web Operating Systems. A browser could be a Web Operating System because it operates on the web through a set of server and client side code. With Google’s ChromeOS and Chrome Books, they are betting that applications are not even required anymore. Why not pack a laptop with Chrome, specially built with HTML5 functionality, local storage, 3D Graphics with WebGL. Access whatever you need using already build websites.
But there have been other companies as well. Palm began widely pushing WebOS before failing very badly and selling the OS to HP. HP planned to integrate their Web enabled OS to all of their mobile devices, printers, and even desktops running Windows. Web Operating Systems are easy to define, they are integrated systems that operate on the web. Could you argue that Mac OS X and Windows 7 are WebOS’s? I don’t think that you can. I think that the true Web Operating Systems will come when there is a fundamental framework built from the HTTP layer, to access files, applications, and be able to perform everybody’s daily tasks.