“While we’re waiting for Google to launch its own Google OS (if the rumours are true, of course), I’ve checked out 10 web operating systems and what they can do. Not many of them feel like finished and fully usable products, but there are some true gems among them. Admit it: you didn’t think there were that many WebOSes around, did you?” More here.
Big WebOS Roundup – 10 Online Operating Systems Reviewed
About The Author
Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker.
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2006-12-25 9:53 pmDoc Pain
“All these so called WebOS’s require the system to be up and running with a browser. This already demands for another OS. […] Furthermore, do these WebOS’s manage processes, threads, memory and files – things an OS is supposed to do.”
As far as I understood it, these WebOSes also need a server platform running which requires another OS.
From the article:
But what is a WebOS (not to be confused with another definition of the term, see here [- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_operating_system -]), or a Webtop, anyway ? Here’s a simple definition: WebOS is a virtual operating system that runs in your web browser.
A virtual (not real) operating system, something like an emulator (e. g. Hercules)?
Personally, I find the term “Webtop” more appealing than “WebOS”.
There are some more criteria for an OS, such as providing access to file systems, memory control, peripherials control, providing an user interface (UI/GUI) as well as a programming interface (API), providing development tools, security protocols to avoid abuse, providing of tools for maintaining installed applications.
“They sound more like an app for the OS rather than OS. “
I think so, too. The term “web based distributed computing” is good to describe what such a WebOS particulary is.
2006-12-25 10:35 pmosgeek
yes, “WebTop” makes more sense for what they do.
I would barely call anything like this an “OS” it’s just not. I don’t think that they are going to go anywhere. Existing operating systems need to become more pervasively networked.
One example of this type of OS (pervasively networked) is Plan 9.
becoming a problem.
It is, just, possible to imagine a use for “WebOS” that doesn’t include “drive user mad”, but it is unlikely to see such a use.
2006-12-25 11:12 pmDoc Pain
“It is, just, possible to imagine a use for “WebOS” that doesn’t include “drive user mad”, but it is unlikely to see such a use.”
I have an idea, but surely it’s too complicated. WebOSes (or Webtops, as I like to call them from now) would be great as an alternative to live system CDs (or even installed OSes). Just imagine, you can visit a web page an have the look and feel and even try out, let’s say, a Linux desktop distribution, or even an OS that won’t run on your hardware (such as MacOS X on x86). You can play around with it a bit and see how it works. Kind of “interactive slide show”… yes yes, I’ll stop making silly suggestiuons right now and visit os://sparc.solaris.de_DE/10.0/ or os://mips.irix/ or even os://x86.macosx.leopard/zfs/ instead. 🙂
Edited 2006-12-25 23:14
2006-12-26 12:20 amSomeGuy
It’s already been done. I can’t remember the website, and I don’t even know if it’s still up, but I toyed with the demo version of something like what you’re describing.
Pretty much, it was a Java applet VNC viewer that let you log into a Mandrake install. I can’t imagine it being all that hard to reimplement, however, and I have to ask “Why would I trust all my data to a box I have no control over?”
2006-12-28 11:12 amHaicube
I too had problems finding a decent problem that these would solve, but then suddenly I realise that this has great potential for a lot of companies who offer software as services (the next huge hype to avoid Piracy or rather support/service/updating I guess).
Let me give you an example of this to clear up any misunderstandings.
Many small – mid sized firms wants to have data regurarly backed up, want their accountancy software to be updated often (as often as law changes accountancy rules for instance) and want it to be externally accessible (eg accounting firm) but still available internally. Many companies want it to be backed up daily and like the idea of having this “secured” from intrusion of employees and similar, as it only really affects management+economy staff. This is a typical situation where a normal Website simply won’t do it because of the need of heavier functionality. Webtop is a great solution to get a proper interface to work in etc.
I can imagine a whole bunch of other apps that would work very well in this environment, especially such where you need external input/updating on a regular basis or simply the need of someone external to have access.
Yes, I do realize this may not be the dream for a large firm, but for small medium sized business it might be it! Especially since they often lack updating/backup/administration routines and simply don’t want an additional server running as RDP host and such. This saves money, time effort and not to mention, the only thing needed is your browser.
on the other hand, I must admit my personal feelings is that the future looks more promising for actual webapps which is intelligent and not webtops….
…but who knows?
Thanks for the article and the hard work researching.
Please stop posting these “webos” topics. There’s no such thing as a Web OS. AFAICT, these don’t manage threads, memory, processes, etc…
If I create a mockup of a desktop environment in PNG you won’t publish it. It’s the same thing. No point.
nice round up
too bad they are all very much in their early stages still
i myself am not ‘yet’ a fan of this breed of web(os/top) systems, and see future progress advancing in a different direction. though, through the overlap with these types of systems, they will offer many benefits
of which, is the vetting of ideas and user interest in the technologies and innovative developments and to provide others [corp. most likely] a template for their own endeavors
guess we will have to wait a few years to see the final benefit
I think that calling OS to an application that provides the desktop metaphor through a web browser is too pretentious and arrogant!
An OS handles memory, resources, devices, processes, thread scheduling, file systems and all that low level stuff… The UI on top of the OS is just that: An UI on top of the OS.
2006-12-26 9:53 amagentj
OS should mean Operating Shell here.
2006-12-26 10:14 amchekr
I was under the impression it was Operating System.
would I ever trust anything to some so-called WebOS that I have no control over. Who determines what happens to your data as it’s sent back and forth? What happens to your data after it’s deleted? Who else is reading what you’re typing? Who else is looking at those sexy pictures of your wife? Is there ANY level of security at all to this idea?
If I were a criminal this would make me salivate.
Thanks for the warning! (and the write up)
Edited 2006-12-26 14:50
It’s rather disappointing to see the calibre of ‘comments’ on this article here at OSnews. (“ooh, ooh, let me be the umpteenth person to show how 733t I am by pointing out these aren’t really OSes”.)
Here’s an example of how it should be done, by user chronofish, from TFA:
The Answer to Why
The reason why most people ask “why”; is because they are coming from an environment where their PC/Laptop is their own. They are also coming from the perspective of wanting everything to be “their own”; (hardware, software, data, etc).
Take a step back try to see where a web OS would excel:
1. Corporate desktop environment:
One of the biggest issues that Network and System administrators have is keeping a fleet of aging computers up to date. For an individual, it’s not a big deal – $700 for a new desktop buys you so much. But if you have 100, 1000, 10,000 employees, aging hardware is an issue. Compound that with OSs that mature every 5 years, and productivity suites that mature every 2-3 years. Even if you are not a technology company, you’re spending a ton of dough on technology just to remain current.
Then there is the issue of how do you keep everyone up to date simultaneously. Let’s say that money is no object, so you don’t care that rolling out a Vista upgrade to your 1000 employees is going to cost you $300,000. But going around to every desktop, while trying to preserve desktop setting and critical data that users “forgot” to save to the file server or document management system takes time and training. Multiply the number of hours times the hourly cost of the administrator(s). If your systems guy can load an OS onto 5 machines per hour you’re looking at 200 hours for 1000 machines. At $75/hr (employee’s are costly) that’s another $15,000.
The beauty of the WebOS is that it is upgraded on the server only, and everyone company wide is instantly upgraded. No downloading patches, security fixes, no need to leave firewalls open to “automatic updates”. No time spent on individual computers – just the servers.
My brother-in-law is not afraid of computers, nor is especially tech-savvy. He uses them as a tool, and that is about it. He would love to be on system that he never had to manage himself. Didn’t have to worry about backups, about disk crashes, about having the latest version of software. He doesn’t feel the need to “own”; the software nor to have it saved locally. He is a prime candidate for a WebOS.
3. Gadget hounds and travelers:
Syncing is great, but what if you never had to? What if you always had your data available on you cell phone, PDA, Laptop, desktop, and office computer – instantaneously across all devices – without ever syncing? (Think IMAP vs POP applied to all data – not just email) What if you could go on a trip, log in borrowing your Mom’s 10 year old computer, and have all your apps running with all your data just as fast as you’re used to? Sure – there is only a subset of people who want to use their PDA as a desktop – but that group of people is big enough to warrant the development of the WebOS market. Equally small is the number of people who actually want to lug their laptop with them where-ever they go.
It’s easy to scoff at the idea of the WebOS. I know I did when I first contemplated the idea of SAAS (Software as a service). But now I am building my own WebOS (very early beginnings).
Think outside you’re own experience and I think you will find there is place for just about everything.
2006-12-26 5:00 pmphoenix
A diskless setup would be better than a browser-based desktop. We do this in our elementary schools (computer lab of 30 diskless hybrid clients booting of a single server, running most apps on the servers, all data is stored onthe server) and in one secondary school (all computers in the school are diskless, booting off a single server, running all apps locally, saving all data to the server). Using Debian Etch and KDE. Works great.
Much more useful than “a desktop in a browser on a desktop OS”.
We’ll be implementing this in a second high school this year, and moving the elementaries to the same diskless (not thin-client) model starting next fall.
Not paying for X desktop OS licenses, and not worrying about harddrives dying in X desktops, or wondering where people are storing data, is a god-send.
2006-12-26 10:05 pmosgeek
Thin-clients suit better for such purpose like corporate desktops. You don’t even have to install any OS or browser on individual machines. Just buy a thin client machine and hook it into the network with a server. One can leave a session at one such client and go to another and resume his session where he left it. An example is http://www.sun.com/sunray/sunray170/details.xml
I think calling these ‘Operating Systems’ is a stretch of the imagination. A Start button, an OS does not make. I even think the term ‘web app’ is a stretch as it is.
Somehow I just don’t buy into the idea of building a desktopOS on top of an application that is hardly stable in the first place. Perhaps (Apple/Claris/MS)WorksOS might be a better place to build a general purpose WorksOS, wouldn’t have to write most of it, just add web side.
The webOS idea, IMO, jumps the gun when it comes to the desktop-specific operating system.
Instead, I would wait for more XUL/XAML/XMLGUI desktop applications to take hold on the major operating systems, apps which allow for extensions which take advantage of the web services on an easily-accessible basis. The single browser being the portal to those services does not make for easy access.
All these so called WebOS’s require the system to be up and running with a browser. This already demands for another OS. How popular an OS would become if it needs another OS to run some apps on it is anyone’s guess.
Furthermore, do these WebOS’s manage processes, threads, memory and files – things an OS is supposed to do. They sound more like an app for the OS rather than OS.
Edited 2006-12-25 21:11