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)
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