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The Future Might Be BIOS and Browsers

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the heard-this-before dept.

Operating Systems 350

An anonymous reader writes "Few in the open source community have welcomed online applications like Google Docs with open arms, but Keir Thomas claims he's found a way forward — and it's one that involves exclusively open source. He reckons BIOS-based operating systems are the future, because they will alter the way users think about their computers. FTA: 'The key breakthrough is ideological: BIOS-based operating systems demote the operating system to just another function of the hardware. It breaks the old mindset of the operating system being a distinct platform, or an end in itself. The operating system becomes part of the overall computing appliance. This allows the spotlight to focus on online applications.'"

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Or (0, Offtopic)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28041981)

Future might be me winning lottery, and retiring with lots hookers and blackjack.

Re:Or (-1, Offtopic)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042355)

frgit the kookes and the black jack and just give me the booz and money

Re:Or (-1, Offtopic)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042643)

    They aren't really hookers, when you have your own private island casino, and they are your concubines.

    That's a great life plan. You'll be satisfied whenever you want to be, and be able to turn a profit from the gamblers who come to your island to lose their savings.

    Excuse me, I have to go buy a few lottery tickets right now.


This is true for some value of (5, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042003)

computer users, but when the network is down all bets are off. No matter how good the experience normally is, one lightning storm is all it will take to send johnny user off to computers are us to buy a full functioning pc.

Re:This is true for some value of (4, Insightful)

Draknor (745036) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042347)

And what will Johnny User do with that computer when the network is down?

- Can't do email if you can't access Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo.
- Can't chat with friends on IM
- Can't socialize on Facebook/Myspace
- Can't surf YouTube for funny or interesting videos.
- Can't pay your bills online or manage your bank account

There goes probably 90% of your average user's computer use. Sure, they can always type a letter in MS Word, or update some Excel spreadsheet, or download their digital pictures (just don't try emailing them to anyone or uploading them anywhere!). Or maybe Solitaire. But let's face it, most of the exciting stuff to do on a computer now is online.

Re:This is true for some value of (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042599)

But Firefox still works.

There's no place like!

Re:This is true for some value of (5, Insightful)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042711)

Maybe he could write software like we all did in the old days.

Re:This is true for some value of (2, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042773)

But how will he send the source to

Re:This is true for some value of (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042897)

You mean with a basic interpreter in the BIOS.

Re:This is true for some value of (2, Insightful)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042717)

If this happens, and I believe to a certain extent it will, Internet providers will have to harden their networks to the point that outages are a rare occurrence - like the power companies hav#!5g45g%T+++ NO CARRIER.

Re:This is true for some value of (4, Insightful)

pentalive (449155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042725)

1) Play any number of local games of all sorts (not just solitaire)

2) Play music and podcasts already downloaded and ripped.

3) Play a DVD

4) Upload that bunch of pictures from his camera and get them squared away with GIMP or Photoshop.
(OH wait you already had part of that)

5) Perhaps write a program of his own?

Hey, I LIKE solitaire. If a letter is needed, why not?

6) Gather freinds for a LAN party (Just because the DSL/Cablemodem is down does not mean the local home network is down too.)

Of course if that thunderstorm also knocked out power...

Re:This is true for some value of (-1, Offtopic)

haroldpatterson (1559583) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042827)

You do realize that every one of the things you list require you to have a local, native program running to use it right? Which kind of goes completely against the ideas put forth in the article which are about everything running out of your browser from some online service provider on a thin client.

Online is the coms, not the content. (5, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042741)

Maybe I'm just getting old, but to me, the "online" is just the communication channel, not the content arena.

When it comes to content I create, I want to create it and store it on my computer, not on someone else's computer.

Yes, I love the internet and the ability it gives me to send and receive content (which I then, again, store on my computer). And yes, the utility of my computer is greatly compromised when I can't access the internet.

But I don't want to rely on someone else's computer to run applications like Office, or Email, or games, or...anything I can think of right now.

I don't want to rely on someone else's computer to store my data.

The reason why I don't want these things is

1) There might come a reason at some point where I can't access the data (they go out of business, internet is down, I can't afford internet access anymore, etc.)

but mostly:

2) I don't trust that the people who so graciously store my things online won't use them or cripple them in some manner not in my best interest, but is instead in someone else's money-making interest.

Having been involved with computers since the days of the TI99/4A, what seems clear to me is the future of computing is about CONTROL OF DATA. So the fundamental question becomes, do YOU want the control over your data and applications, or are you going to give that control to someone else?

Re:This is true for some value of (2, Insightful)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042799)

- Can't do email if you can't access Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo.
- Can't chat with friends on IM
- Can't socialize on Facebook/Myspace
- Can't surf YouTube for funny or interesting videos.
- Can't pay your bills online or manage your bank account

Read the email that you've downloaded but not read yet
Look up your friend's phone number to call him on ye olde phone
Watch that kewl DVD you hadn't gotten around to yet
Enter latest bills on Quicken to update when your connection returns.

Most of the good stuff IS online, but there is still stuff you can do offline with a real computer.

The Future Might Be ACs, Bitches, and Frosties (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042009)



Re:The Future Might Be ACs, Bitches, and Frosties (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042467)



If there's a WinXP compatible (1, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042013)

If someone produces a practical Windows XP compatible O/S, then Microsoft might end up like a BIOS vendor.

Just like Phoenix BIOS vs IBM PC BIOS.

Then Microsoft will lose it's hold over the market, and people might just concentrate more on what runs on top.

Not the dumb terminal scenario again? (2, Funny)

thewils (463314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042037)

I knew I'd kept my old 3270 hanging around for a reason!

Re:Not the dumb terminal scenario again? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042239)

I knew I'd kept my old 3270 hanging around for a reason!

Yeah, but in all fairness, if it has a web browser that supports JavaScript (including Ajax) and Flash, then it's a lot more useful and entertaining than a 3270.

It sounds a lot like the thin-client computing that was pushed about 10 years ago, and which never took off. But it seems to me that web apps, and browsers/Flash have come so far along that it might be really viable this time.

Re:Not the dumb terminal scenario again? (1)

Joe Mucchiello (1030) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042765)

Actually the 3270 isn't far off from a web browser in concept. Every "action" key is a request to the server. The server sends back a "page" of information. The 3270 is a block display device. How is that really different from early browsers aside from the graphics?

store it on the HDD! (5, Funny)

ZyBex (793975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042047)

Why not just store the BIOS on the hard disk? That way it has plenty of space to grow and can be updated easily!

Oh wait...

Re:store it on the HDD! (5, Funny)

VampireByte (447578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042633)

If the latest industry magazines are correct, the BIOS is going to be stored in the cloud.

User perspective (3, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042051)

Does he think an average user can tell the weather his OS is stored in on-board flash, solid state drive, or iron oxide? Right, I didn't think so.

Re:User perspective (2)

anonymousNR (1254032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042287)

You are right.

The average Joe may not care where the OS is stored.

Then may be that is the reason this type of solution is good for a certain demographics. Like how he doesn't care about what's running his mobile phone, GPS etc.

He just want to do things with those gadgets and spend less time understanding whats running.

I know I know this is not the first time we are talking about this sort of thing.

But again this is slashdot.

Re:User perspective (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042359)

Speaking of demographics, even though I think this article is bs, if I do get a refrigerator with a pc in the door, I want it to be this biOS kind. The one in my car would probably be quite handy if it was the biOS kind as well.

Re:User perspective (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042365)

Who cares where it is stored? As long as where it is stored is fast, that's all that really matters. And moving it closer to where the bios is stored, especially making it a part of the bios, means it will be as quick as possible.

The point is speed to the browser, and lack of overhead. That particular computer becomes an internet appliance. It could also make web-based terminal sessions, like Citrix, quicker to boot to than a regular native OS! (Citrix is always on, the "speed to the browser" + access time is the only time-sink)

A small OS who's only job is to handle a browser is going to be tiny. Tiny OS = fast OS. Also, without a big OS overhead, processing and memory are devoted solely to the browser and whatever disk storage you are using, which means web apps can get increasingly bigger, JS can be more potent, there could potentially be flash memory for add-ins and updates to things like flash and whatnot (or it could just use the hdd for those things, though onboard flash would be faster).

Accessing the internet from a computer in the off state should be a matter of 5-10 seconds at most if this is done right. This would be perfect for netbooks, who's major function is web-access. Add a minimal web based interface for local disk access, and you're all set.

That's very cool, and the average user will notice they don't have to wait for to load up before they can hit the web. Frankly, I don't care where the OS is stored, even though I would know. Small and in the hardware = fast, and I definitely care about fast.

Re:User perspective (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042805)

He can tell when it boots in 5 seconds vs. 1.5 minutes, yes.

Re:User perspective (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042873)

Exactly. Unfortunately, "BIOS" has become a synonym for "Flash memory".

Could be useful (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042067)

Depends on how they implement it. I'd imagine for at least 80% of the unwashed hordes who just want something to boot in seconds, and then to surf the web and check their gmail, this would be great.

I've always wanted something like this... (5, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042083)

I've wanted it for a long time for PC gaming, but it's certainly a lot of work. A bios-based browser framework would be much simpler, and frankly it would fulfil the needs of a great many PC users. I know I'd like it for those times when all I want to do is get on the web. Boot should only be a few seconds before you're browsing slashdot. ;)

Think about it though, for gaming (if someone would ever do it). Basic OS + gaming specific API = leanest gaming OS possible. Consoles basically use this concept, and get a lot more out of less hardware than PC games can, because PC games have much greater overhead.

My thoughts, anyway.

Re:I've always wanted something like this... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042241)

The OS overhead isn't the biggest reason that console games are able to outperform PC games on lesser hardware. It comes down to the fact that with a console, designers know exactly what they're programming for, and can take full advantage of it. In PC games, they must aim for the lowest common denominator. They can't require the absolute highest end hardware available, or they'd cut off most of their market. So they must make sure the game runs on a wide range of systems, and thus can't program it to take full advantage of any one.

Re:I've always wanted something like this... (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042277)

I think it's a good idea, but the problem is complicated GPU drivers and networking. Also, booting into a separate OS means no running AIM or MSN Messenger during the game (although I never do that, I know plenty of people that do).

Re:I've always wanted something like this... (0, Redundant)

Rick Genter (315800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042317)

I've wanted it for a long time for PC gaming, but it's certainly a lot of work.

Isn't that really just what a game console is?

Re:I've always wanted something like this... (2, Insightful)

ZyBex (793975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042323)

Consoles have 1 unique hardware platform.
A PC game must work on hundreds of different hardware configurations; to do that, we have to have a bunch of APIs (DirectX), but most importantly each different hardware component must have it's own driver that interfaces with that API to allow it to do the real work.

A BIOS OS (for now) just uses very generic "drivers" to access the basic/common hardware functions. We're still a long way off to the point where a common BIOS will allow for gaming.

If you allow the BIOS to be user-updatable with drivers, then it's no longer a Basic Input-Output System, it's really an embedded OS.

EFI might work, with plugins/drivers, though.

Re:I've always wanted something like this... (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042659)

Wait wait wait.


You're saying you actually wanted a Phantom?

Re:I've always wanted something like this... (4, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042841)

Like you said, just buy a console. You can use keyboards and mice on XBox360's, I'm pretty sure.

Re:I've always wanted something like this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042867)

I remember something like this back when MS DOS was still around. Not that DOS didn't have any overhead, but it had a lot less than Windows did so rebooting into DOS was pretty common. Or if you were like my friends you would just occasionally boot into windows to do some word processing for school.

Better attack vector? (2, Interesting)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042103)

Doesn't it also give a better attack vector via a hardware-focused rootkit?

Re:Better attack vector? (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042419)

Depends. They need a thin OS. There is no need to have notepad or even the browser on the stupid chip. That stuff should operate at a different permission level and from an actual drive even if it is slower. The OS should be doing kernel stuff only if we put it on hardware. A thin OS drops the size to where it would be reasonable to do formal proofs on the design.

Smells of DRM (4, Interesting)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042109)

I would hate to have the BIOS as the OS especially if I could not replace it.

Re:Smells of DRM (5, Insightful)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042399)

Smells of DRM

I would hate to have the BIOS as the OS especially if I could not replace it.

This is my thought also. Everything hardwired right into the silicon including DRM, TPM, unique ID hashes for tracking, and plenty of government/law enforcement back-doors. It would also take care of all those pesky open source operating systems and enable lockout of "unauthorized" applications. Nice, safe (from the governments' and big-corps' view) computers for the masses.

Not for me, thanks.


Supplement, not replace (5, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042131)

If all applications are on a server -- someone else's server -- it doesn't bode too well for my freedom. This is a fine model for a lightweight system, such as a thin client or terminal, but I think these will complement the personal computer rather than supplant it, and will only do so to the extent that bandwidth and ubiquity permit. Emerging devices like netbooks and smartphones do seem to point toward this model gaining in popularity in coming yearss, but I think a lot of people will still find having code that executes locally, and which they can own and control, to be valuable -- too valuable to discard entirely.

Re:Supplement, not replace (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042403)

If all applications are on a server -- someone else's server -- it doesn't bode too well for my freedom.

Well, many of us now have broadband. And if we're willing to accept web-based apps, then we're willing to give up a little UI niceness.

So would you find this acceptable?
1) Java or Flash apps downloaded to your computer each time you need them.
2) Data saved to local USB thumbdrive (or internal drive)

I realize this probably wouldn't work for video editing, computationally demanding gaming, etc. But it would work just fine for 99% of what our livingroom PC is used for.

Re:Supplement, not replace (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042527)

I could see it replacing the Desktop but not the server. There will still be a market for Server Application Just not Desktop. For most people SaaS will do what they want and be much easier overall, it is not effecting their freedom because they choose to use such a service. I bet if this catches on and desktops are being replaced. I wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft or Google selling a server version of such an app. So they can make money from people who wants to run their servers locally or with a select clientèle.

Re:Supplement, not replace (1)

haroldpatterson (1559583) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042627)

Oh great, so instead of just being able to run my apps locally as I can do now buy only having to purchase the app. In this glorious world you dreamed up I also have to buy a server as well! Sign me up!

Re:Supplement, not replace (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042929)

So you can buy a $900 PC. or a $200 thin client and a $800 server.

Ok Fine you are paying an extra hundred bucks. But if you need to you can scale thin clients are much cheaper. Or you could share your server and split the cost with other people you want to work with. For people with an open mind is can be a real cost savings.

Re:Supplement, not replace (1)

dannannan (470647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042707)

This can be viewed as problem with the current browser caching paradigm. It is an important concern and I believe it can be solved with some design changes in web apps and in the browser.

Today your web browser always hits the remote server first, even if you already have a cached copy of the content. It's checking to see if its cache is still valid. If the site is down, you see an error (read: your app won't run); if the site decided to delete or change the content, your browser obliges and caches the new version, whether you wanted the old version blown away or not.

Once you start talking about full-blown web apps served up through the browser, what you really want is to connect only for software update distribution and network-oriented features that only make sense online (e.g. live chat, featured content, ads). Local-only features, e.g. word processing, should be cached in such a way that it works offline and can be rolled back if you get a bad update.

so we're saying my future (4, Funny)

nimbius (983462) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042171)

is in chip-design or network communications...great...thanks alot for this dead-end career GNU/LINUX!!

Re:so we're saying my future (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042839)

No, your future is in embedded linux...

Summary (0, Troll)

Eddy Luten (1166889) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042177)

The first part of the article is regurgitation (flash OS) and the second part Linux trolling (FOSS > proprietary). Next!

Modern Thin client? (4, Interesting)

frinkster (149158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042179)

Isn't BIOS + Browser just a modern interpretation of the thin client? Sure, there's always going to be a small market for them, but I don't see how it can grab a huge share of the market.

Of course a business can run the Web apps from an internal server so it's definitely viable, but it never took off before - I doubt it would now.

On the home front, such a business model turns your computer into a subscription service. It works as long as you pay your internet bill (and whatever other costs are needed to access the actual web applications). This wasn't very popular for music when the customer was presented with other options (iTunes).

And this doesn't even address network reliability.

Re:Modern Thin client? (1)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042393)

Casual home users. All most people need or use is an office suite, solitaire and a browser+email client. Even at work, the taskers/sales/pms only used these.

Castle in the clouds (5, Insightful)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042181)

No thanks, I would actually like to be able to execute native code. Javascript or ECMAscript or whatever they call it nowadays is a pretty poor substitute for any of the dozens of much better programming languages in the universe. Plus it's write once debug everywhere to a much greater extent than even Java.

Why do you think there was such a kerfluffle over iPhone application development? Apple initially said you could just roll a Web 2.0 app that looked native to the iPhone, and exactly nobody was satisfied with that.

I have no doubt that browser devices will become more popular over the course of the next few years, but they're never ever going to replace native code.

Re:Castle in the clouds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042411)

"...just roll a Web 2.0 app that looked native to the iPhone ..."

In that case, I'll take a web 2.0 VoIP app, please.

Re:Castle in the clouds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042777)

No one was satisfied not because it was Javascript but because there was no integration with the Phone features itself (i.e. no gesture support in the Javascript, etc).

Anyone else ever (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042183)

Anyone else ever wonder if eventually all high performance applications are just going to sit in their own VM/OS?
I mean if the "desktop/OS" paradigm is relegated to part of the hardware.

I'm fairly certain that made no sense to anyone but me.

OLPC Security Does This (Bitfrost) (1)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042415)

The OLPC isolates "3rd party" apps like Firefox in a sandbox. The BIOS OS could virtualize a minimal Windows or Linux OS, modified to do its actual window rendering through a server process in the "User Browser/UI" VM.

Re:OLPC Security Does This (Bitfrost) (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042737)

I think that is what I meant, or something of that nature. I can't really articulate my idea without spend an hour typing and editing my idea.

Re:Anyone else ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042479)

You mean like those old games during the windows 95 era that came with their own boot disk?

Re:Anyone else ever (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042931)

Actually, that's an interesting concept. Each program in its own wrapper, and able to run on any platform that has the right interface. In some ways, a parallel thought to the whole Java-will-be-everything mantra, but something a bit different, too. This could be used atop a BIOS-as-OS model--the BIOSOS would provide the interface to the hardware (regardless of the machine type), and the application wrapper (AW) would simply pass information to the BIOSOS.

I don't know how well it would work on specialized or high-intensive needs (e.g., 3D modeling), but something worth considering...

No! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042219)


It's bad enough I have to deal with Windows being installed on a new machine, the last thing we need is to have to rip the case apart to get rid of it!

I honestly don't even know if the article mentions Windows being on it, but everyone here knows good and well that the MOMENT M$ gets wind of this they will force it upon the manufacturers.

Force might be to strong of a word there, how about "bribe"?

Also, how is this any different (in the end) than running / on solid state media?

In other words... (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042227)

Geeks like you guys are stupid! If we do some black box magic, you'll all accept it!

Cause, y'know, it's totally not a philosophical difference between you having control over your data and a third party having control over your data. Not at all. It's all perspective!

Very fragile (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042229)

If you lose power while saving a file, you have to pull the eeprom or get a new motherboard.

This new BIOS (1)

homesnatch (1089609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042235)

This new BIOS of the future will actually be stored on a hard disk and will also rely on on-board flash to boot it. This new OS^H^HBIOS will also have a lot of built-in features that allow for the efficient use of the applications...

I hate to crack this twice in one week (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042247)

But it is going to be a looong time before BIOS chips are big enough to store all the code for asking you if you really want to take this action.

Re:I hate to crack this twice in one week (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042371)

I agree. Just to mimic the MS OS-Crashing features would require a chip 6" by 6".

Nope (2, Interesting)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042265)

The solution to slow booting is not to put MORE stuff in the bios, the solution is a move adaptive startup process, if a user only uses firefox then boot up the system to the point it can browse the web ASAP and load the rest of the crap in the background (at a low priority so not to affect browsing)
1.mount /etc,/usr & /home (or windows equivilents)
2.load sandboxing software (UAC/selinux/etc)
3.start networking
4.put a webbrowser in fullscreen
5.profit and eventually load the rest of the OS

It's quick booting, customizable, gives a full featured OS eventually, i doubt many people want to sacrifice the last 2 for the 1st.

Nothing new here. Please move along (1)

TooTechy (191509) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042285)

Old news

Umm, welcome to recursion (5, Insightful)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042303)

So, no OS. Browser becomes OS. Then browser adds features to do things that BIOS doesn't do.

So congratulations, you've taken "OS", moved it up and now call it "BIOS", the you've taken "browser" and now call it "OS". You've taken "applications" and called them unnecessary. Then you've taken "online applications" and called them "applications".

So all you've done is to throw the OS into the hardware, and you've changed the programming language into an internet-delivered language. Oh yeah, and you've put the browser into the position of controlling the system.

And now you're going to say that internet explorer isn't a fundamental part of windows? No, you're going to say that windows isn't a fundamental part of online applications. except windows doesn't exist anymore, and all applications are online applications, and internet explorer is now the entire operating system.

So you've said notihng but juggled around terms.

And then, in five years, when firefox decides to support downloadable fonts, stateful connections, when "cookies" become "files" and there's access to a "file system" for these online applications to use, and some kind of "active control" to interface with other hardware like printers and scanners and cameras, then you'll simply have virtualized an operating system again.

Congratulations for saying nothing. I can do it to. Watch this:

"Computers are relying more and more on the Internet these days. Someday, more applications will begin online, instead of client-side. Oh, and your hardware will do more work than it used to." -- me, 2009

Re:Umm, welcome to recursion (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042919)

This. It's really a matter of semantics and no regular user will really care. For example, I think of OS X in this manner already. It positions itself as an extension of the hardware and I think of my Mac as a unified hardware/software experience. However, because Windows is marketed as a product/experience that is separate from the hardware, we get into these types of discussions.

So we're back to ..... (1)

BigGar' (411008) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042319)

Client Server/Cloud architectures. Remote/shared computing is great for some things, but not others, the load per user is just too high. Modern FPS & MMORPG gaming, video, audio processing, are examples that would be "challenging" to move into the cloud. I suppose you could download plugin's & applets etc, but the data sets for some things just seem to require local processing & storage.

Long time still... (2, Insightful)

Malenx (1453851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042343)

It's going to be at least 10 years before this is feasible to the masses. We're not streaming live high def content in real-time. If we were, then a central gaming server could stream your screen to you and your computer would just have to be strong enough to play it.

However, until that happens, gamers won't move to it. Until gamers make it usable, the general public won't move to it. By time this is possible, won't storage and processing power be so compact and powerful that it'll just be a silly argument anyways?

I can see virtual systems with the drives stored online and cached locally, so you can take your computer to any terminal and immediately pickup. But pure bios machines, no. This just isn't feasible for the masses currently, nor will it even be the best choice once it is.

Is that you Apple ][ ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042361)

The idea of the OS being part of the hardware seems to be a loop back to the "old days", when you got an application on a disk, and the "os" was build into the hardware.. or am I missing something?

The future today! (1)

haroldpatterson (1559583) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042383)

Probably one of the dumbest lines in this whole article is this:

As a long-time Gmail user, I genuinely find it astonishing that people still use email clients, and store their e-mail on one computer. Itâ(TM)s unimaginable for me not being able to access my email on my desktop and laptop computers, or even my cellphone or Nokia N800 handheld.

Wow online email services! Thank god Google came along and provided a service that no one else had every done in the previous 9 years before it came out. Oh wait...

Re:The future today! (2, Interesting)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042911)

The author never claimed that Google invented webmail.

I was glad when gmail came out. All the other free webmail providers I had used either didn't provide free POP access anymore, got spammy, put retarded ads on my email, or went under. The web client had good integration and features. The mobile interface was nice. The only price you pay is your privacy, and that's arguably already been paid.

(yawn) yet more "cloud" advocacy, huh? (3, Insightful)

gun26 (151620) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042401)

Didn't Ellison and McNealy try to sell us this pig in a poke years ago? They got nowhere with their initiative, and the current "cloud computing" nonsense won't replace local apps and data any time soon, either. What stopped this tired old notion before was lack of bandwidth - lots of people were on dialup, and it would have been painfully slow for them. Nowadays most are on broadband, but how much bandwidth do we REALLY have to play with? Not all that much, according to the Comcasts, Rogers, Bell Canadas and Verizons of this world. Do we really want to rely on online access going through an ISP which is counting every kilobyte of traffic and choking it off as it sees fit? Not to mention spyong on its customers on behalf of various shadowy government agencies.

Also, isn't the browser itself becoming another big choke point in all this? Security vulnerabilities, remote exploits, memory hogging, reliance on add-on technologies like Flash and Java with their own security problems - and of course, all this is built on the shaky foundations of browser scripting, which can never be made completely secure.

Forget it, boys. This turkey STILL won't fly.

Not an entirely bad idea (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042413)

Here's a sort of corollary idea... HyperSpace [] or ESXi [] with DSL [] or similar runs on the machine (from flash, of course) and if you want to run something more complicated you load it in a virtual machine. One possible virtual machine would be a LAMP appliance that would make the browser in your machine more useful by hosting web applications; another one would be a storage appliance...

Most users... (1)

ADRA (37398) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042427)

.. I know that aren't power users or in the computer field couldn't tell you the difference between their computer and the OS. Just like Mac's. You're buying a mac, not Windows computer.

I have a prediction (1)

bmajik (96670) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042469)

The Future May Involve Blood, Watermelons, and Hookers.

Re:I have a prediction (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042637)

In that case, send Lawyers, Guns and Money.

...once the browser is an OS (1)

benwaggoner (513209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042511)

Well, I suppose if browsers evolve to the point that they're providing full OS level functionality.

I could see something like this happening a few years after browsers start commonly running in hypervisors.

I don't really see the point. The parts of browsers tha are good for an OS migrate to the OS anyway. Something like the Palm Pre is more about basing the UX rendering layer on browser techology. And yes, presentation is an important part of the OS, but hardly the major part of it.

Operating systems do the things browsers do well a lot better than browsers do the things that operating systems do well. A browser that did those things too would be much, much more like today's operating systems than today's browsers.

Re:...once the browser is an OS (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042895)

haha, yea, at that point it's just semantics. In a sense, a windows based OS is just an advanced browser anyways. If you give a browser all the functionality of an OS and put it on top of BIOS, isn't it really just an OS?

Please no (5, Insightful)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042531)

Apart from the issues of control over your data, access times etc:

One of the nice things about today's OSes is that they've forced applications to become reasonably consistent and interoperable. All my applications have similar UI, and the services offered by the OS mean that the apps can talk to each other.

Degrading the OS to just a host for the browser means you give up these services, and once again every application is a kingdom unto itself. The state of online apps today is similar to the less-functional, less visible OSes from 25 years ago, including the horrible and inconsistent UI, the lack of flexibility (no scripting, for instance), and the total lack of communication between apps hosted on different sites.
And this time, because the apps are hosted on different sites, there's no OS vendor that can enforce consistecy and interoperability.

So the BIOS will do multitasking, security, etc? (1)

OldOOCoboler (1340497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042623)

OK, maybe OS's are bloated, but lets not get bulemic trying to go thin client.

Possible...but not as the TFA's author intended... (1)

TemporalBeing (803363) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042655)

It's certainly possible that upgradeable BIOS-like OS's may be where the OS market is going, but it will mostly depend on the implementation and the requirement that it be upgradeable be present.

If they try to do the BIOS OS without any ability to upgrade it, then there will be no way to fix the problems of the OS, and enthusiasts won't buy them. So being able to upgrade the BIOS OS would be necessary.

Secondly, why limit the BIOS OS to just being a thin-client? The user could have a hard drive of some sort (external, internal, USB stick, etc.). Why not provide the ability to store and load apps from there? Let there be thick-clients too.

This would be nice from the aspect that the hardware vendor would have to ensure the BIOS OS could work with all the hardware present. So out-of-the-box support by Linux would be the norm (since nearly all the present BIOS OS-like solutions are Linux-based).

Vendors like MS would have a more difficult time playing in the market since they require more space/power/memory/etc to function, and they won't likely go for letting WinCE be put on every computer when they could be selling Vista or Win7 instead.

So there is a lot of promise, but only if vendors do it right. Otherwise, it'll fail quite badly.

fi85t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042675)

our abilityU To

Sounds like Amiga (Kickstart 2.x+) (1)

MoFoQ (584566) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042677)

it's starting to sound like it's going back to the Amiga's Kickstart 2.x+ [] , where the core OS is stored on ROM.

My thoughts exactly - but is it for the better??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042905)

My thoughts exactly, I have been using Splashtop on my PC for some time now and it is wonderful. Is this the new route PC's are going... We will see...
M3A78 Pro, Quad AMD processor... Works great but there are limitations to the browser...

It was called teleboot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042697)

Back when I got my first 0.8Mhz Z80 DataDax computer on a 150 baud modem. I had to hook up my computer to a teleboot phone line where instead of tapes or floppies all my applications ran on the teleboot system.

When I upgraded to a 750 baud modem they even let me boot in to a mac allowing me to run a macintosh on a Z80. When a hacked netscape for old macs came out I was telebooting for 15 years.

Too bad telebootcorporation went bust in 1997 when they couldn't keep up with 28.8k modems.

Not going to happen anytime soon... (1)

CyberZCat (821635) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042709)

I could see this possibly becoming reality in some industries, especially those that are heavily oriental to working with documents/text (low bandwidth). But I think I can safely say that at least where I work in film editorial, this won't happen for a very long time. Online apps are just too slow for this kind of bandwidth intense medium. Even if a service was established, like I understand is already happening for games, where you would essentially connect to a VNC server where the 'real' computer was to do your work, there is just no possible way you could do 1080p and especially not RED 4K without massive bottlenecks and latency. Yes you could down convert, and/or compress, but then it would be much inferior to just using a 'real' computer in the first place wouldn't it? When I sit down and start cutting on the Avid, or with FCP, and I scrub the playhead through my timeline, I need to see (and hear) everything as it happens. I can only imagine how horrible and frusterating it would be to try to cut a show through VNC, there's no room for latency.

I could perhaps seeing this happen in 50 years where everybody's connection is 1000MB+/sec, but even then we'll be cutting uncompressed UHDV (4320p) video which roughly 20GB a SECOND. I don't think the "your computer is a browser" idea is going to happen here, maybe it will work for some people, but certainly not everyone.

Online Apps Suck (3, Insightful)

GeekZilla (398185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042731)

"This allows the spotlight to focus on online applications."

Who has been asking for all these online applications? I keep reading about the freakin' "CLOUD!!!" and am just not impressed. I wouldn't trust anyone's Cloud platform with my company's data.

As many people have mentioned, once the network goes down, no more online anything. I want my apps, my data and my work all under my control on my local machine/network. There are uses for online applications but to rely on them for business, private data or to store anything that lack of access to would cause a work stoppage is a bad idea.

No FREAKIN way!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042807)

I'll NEVER have a computer that depends on the Internet. Hell with that! Now a *simple* operating system is OK but one that drives only a browser and forces all applications to be online is ridiculous.

What needs to happen is that the interface to hardware devices becomes so simplified and standardized that drivers will not be necessary and anybody can write an operating system. Simple O/S's would be cool. But, you should definitely have everything you need right on your own computer and not depend on the Web, or the Internet in general.

Rent your software (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042811)

This is one more attempt to come up with a way to get people to rent their software. Software companies have been looking for a way to force customers to pay them a steady stream of money since the PC came out. Early on someone realized that once a customer has software that does what he needs, he no longer has a reason to give the software company more money. There is a limit to how many features any given person needs/will use in a word processor. What that limit is varies from individual to individual but at some point it will be reached. That is one of the reasons MS changed the document format from Office 2003 to Office 2007--the average user has no reason to update from Office 2003. Except with the new .docx format people can tell that you have an old version of Word if you use .doc formatted documents, and nobody wants to seem out of date.

Fancy WebTV (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28042843)

I can see this catching on a little bit, particularly with people like my parents. The whole idea reminds me of WebTV (MSN TV [] ), but better. With wider availability of high speed internet and an appreciable offering of "cloud" services, e.g. Google Docs, this might not be half bad for a certain market segment.

"Our browser apps are really low quality... (2, Funny)

LordHaart (1364019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042855) lets destroy the OS so that they look good by comparison!" -Paraphrased from the article.

Mobile handsets will be the first (1)

Zigurd (3528) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042869)

Mobile handsets, because they are resource constrained, will be the first to implement this simplification:

The OS runs the hardware

There is a small non-application userland with utilities, daemons, etc.

The part of the userland the user uses is implemented using a JavaScript managed language runtime, with enough local access to enable offline operation for applications unrelated to communication.

Like DOS? (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042871)

Remember how DOS was just a glorified bootloader? So this is where the PC revolution took us? 20 years and we're full circle back to running single applications in something like real mode? Well, I guess people are still using UNIX so there's clearly no depth to the retardedly regressive prospects of the modern computer user.

Here's an eletric blender... you can use it to beat antelope to death.

Cloud Computing = Loss of controll over MY data. (1)

pentalive (449155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042881)

My data on someone else's computer? Encrypted? How do I know for sure when I did not write the client. Even if it's encrypted on the wire if the client knows my password/passphrase it's not encrypted.

Who wants to see my data? I don't care! My data is mine to share or not as I choose.

If I PGP it locally then I am no longer cloud computing, just cloud storing.

The OS is in ROM? (1)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042891)

Welcome to the 80's :)

Wakka wakka wakka (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042899)

So my future computer will resemble an 80's pac man machine with a browser?

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