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Chrome OS, the delusion of native, and perfection

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Warning: This is half a post about how I really want Google to send me a Cr-48, and half of my inability to work on an essay at three in the morning. Also, parts of this post were written on a Logitech Revue Google TV, that was just sent today. So, as this post is pretty broad and tangential anyway, I’ll cram a consise review of the Google TV system in here as well; The initial impression isn’t that great. Setup is longer than it should be, and the immediate uses aren’t really clear. Initially, it seems like an unnecessarily complex over simplified (somewhat an oxymoron, but that’s what Google TV is) media center PC. But after playing with it for a few hours, it does seem much nicer. The keyboard is nice and the touchpad is surprisingly usable (my only gripe is that the click button is too close to the back button). Finding videos and watching them is quite nice, the twitter client is surprisingly usable and the browser is great most of the time.

The delusion of native

Critics of Chrome OS often say that Chrome OS is useless for it’s lack of “native” applications. But “native” is really just another word that has lost its intrinsic meaning, like HTML5, Ajax and Web2.0. Most people consider Android’s App Marketplace apps “native”, despite that they’re Dalvik VM bytecode and not raw binary ARM code. Even in iOS, a native app usually refers to, not the binary that comes out of XCode, but the application’s usage of the Cocoa Touch graphics framework. The only case when the word “native” poses any real meaning is in gaming, where frames need to be drawn as quickly as possible, where the core loops are often hand written optimized assembly. But iOS, Android and Chrome OS support this in the form of the NDK and Native Client. That leaves a single primary connotation of native applications: consistent interface look and feel.

The web as a platform is relatively low level. The only user interface widgets provided are form components such as checkboxes, buttons and text fields. This low level interface forces for the most part, people to implement their own extended widget sets, and in many cases, choose to reimplement the native controls to introduce consistency across browsers.

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