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Google I/O, day 2: summary of the Chrome keynote

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The focus of the keynote on day 1 was about Android [1], the keynote on day 2 is about Google Chrome and Chrome OS.

  • Users: 70 million at the last I/O conference, 160 million at this I/O.
  • Release cycle: Google has switched to a 6 week release cycle (version 4 at last I/O, version 11 now). Compare: Firefox has recently switched to a 16 week release cycle.
  • Upcoming APIs: fill in text fields via speech and/or perform translations, via simple HTML.
  • Important goal for Chrome: performance
    • JavaScript has seen dramatic performance improvements and is thus becoming less of a focus.
    • Major focus: hardware acceleration. Demo: animated fish (2D sprites). Accelerated canvas is 10 times faster than normal canvas, WebGL is again 10 times faster. Hardware acceleration is also a major topic for Internet Explorer 10 [2].
  • Chrome Web Store
    • Users of an installed app spend 2x more time in the app, perform 2.5x more transaction (e.g. in games).
    • Now: available in 41 languages, world-wide.
    • In-app payments: next to reach, monetization is also an important aspect of an app store.
      • Challenges: make it work at Google scale, make it frictionless.
      • Solution: easy to integrate in existing webapps, 5% transaction fee.
    • Web Store (including in-app purchasing) will be available in other browsers such as Firefox
  • Demo web apps:
    • Angry Birds as a web app.
      • Performance was a challenge.
      • Impossible to implement until recently.
      • Two versions: HD version via WebGL. Less capable version via Canvas as a fall-back.
      • Can be played offline (uses web storage, can allocate more because it’s in the store)
    • Rome.
      • An interactive film starring Jack White and Norah Jones.
      • Implemented via WebGL.
      • Morphs 3D models (one animal into another etc.).
      • Users can interact with the content and add their own models.
      • Used the library three.js (“The aim of the project is to create a lightweight 3D engine with a very low level of complexity — in other words, for dummies. The engine can render using Canvas, SVG and WebGL.”).
  • Chromebooks: Chrome OS notebooks.
    • Keywords: instant on, always connected, all-day battery, access your stuff anywhere, continually updated, security built in (every piece of data is encrypted, sandboxing for apps and plugins).
    • Available online June 15 in the US, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain. More countries follow later.
    • Cr-48 pilot program: 1 million applicants.
    • Chrome OS features highlighted in the talk:
      • Support for Adobe Flash
      • Support for peripherals (cameras, USB sticks)
      • New media player, a panel that can float over the current app or switched to full screen.
      • Google’s new music and video services also work on Chrome OS.
      • Photos: make it easy to get them into the cloud. Upload from SD card to Picasa (which can be installed as a web app).
      • Webapps (such as Picasa) can plug into the Chrome OS file manager and register actions for files. Example: “Send to Picasa”. Similarly: uploading to, Dropbox.
      • Offline-enabled apps: Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Docs. Third parties: Marvel comics, Angry Birds, USA Today, NPR, Sports Illustrated, etc.
    • Hardware partners: Samsung, Acer, Intel, Verizon.
      • Positive feedback on Cr-48 connectivity. Thus: international deals for 3G connectivity.
      • Samsung Chromebook. 12.1" display, 8 hour battery, 8s boot, instant-on, always connected, 2 colors, $429 ($499 with 3G).
      • Acer Chromebook. 11.6" display, 6 hour battery, 8s boot, instant-on, always connected, starting at $349.
      • Jailbreaking: all Chromebooks can be jailbroken.
    • Chromebooks for business and education (including hotels, public internet access points, etc.)
      • Challenge: administration of computers.
      • Chrome OS: easy updates.
      • Access to virtualized desktop apps via webapp from Citrix.
      • Feedback from businesses: 75% of all applications can be handled via webapps and desktop virtualization.
      • Business-focused hardware (in development): A Chromebox (looks like a Mac mini) to drive a large(r) monitor.
      • Business features: centralized admin console to configure users, apps, and policies.
      • Offer for businesses: 28$ per user and month, sold by Google.
      • Offer for schools: 20$ per user and month.
  • Android versus Chrome: The message communicated from the Chrome team is more coherent than Android’s message as communicated yesterday. I also agree with Gruber that Chrome feels much more like a natural part of Google (integration with Google’s webapps etc.) than Android.
  • Being able to jailbreak gives Chromebooks a lot of credibility regarding openness.
  • Current Chromebooks are too expensive. While they are cheaper than most tables and do have a keyboard in addition to a screen, they will have to be sold on price, not on features. Feature-wise, I do like the simplicity and the web technologies, but this does not work as a selling point for most users. They will just notice that other mobile devices can do “what Chromebooks can do” (i.e., webapps) and more. Ironically, the portability of Chrome OS apps is a great feature (courtesy of the web), but it also makes Chrome OS look like a simplified version of a “normal” operating system: Take any operating system, throw out everything but the browser and presto: Chrome OS. This isn’t true, because Chrome OS has more features than just a browser and because the simplicity in itself is also a feature. But it isn’t completely wrong, either. Amazon’s Kindle sells well, because people buy it on impulse. While Chromebooks can’t be as cheap, similar thinking applies, price-wise.
  • The Chromebox looks interesting and could compete with Google TV and Apple TV, in addition to the Mac mini. Again, they would have to sell it on price.
Related reading:
  1. Google I/O, day 1: summary of the Android keynote
  2. Internet Explorer 10 is “native” and good for webapp developers
  3. Editorial: Google clarifies Chromebook subscriptions, might have just changed the industry