Monthly Archives: October 2009

Battle of the OS

John Gruber wrote a blog entry on the “pathological” herd mentality around operating systems for personal computers. He points out, correctly, that Apple has not run with the rest of the pack, and as a result enjoys a great deal of power by owning the part of the stack that includes the hardware and OS, across computers, smart phones, and, to some extent, music players. However, I question some of his arguments.

Lego laptop

He asserts that the operating system is the single most important part of the computing experience.  I’d say that actually the browser is, and only becoming more so. People are spending far more time living in the browser for most things that they do, and this will only increase with the HTML5 improvements in the interface. Sure, there’s a file system underneath there somewhere, but people living in the wireless age don’t ask for much from it anymore. Store some files, display them, play my music, show my photos. Increasingly, assuming ubiquitous network, a typical web citizen’s music, photos, and files will be stored on the web. Storing things locally will be a liability, for both failure and security reasons. Funny as it seems, it will be soon perceived to be safer to store your private data on the web, where it’s out of physical reach of your family and co-workers, than on your laptop that could be stolen, dropped, or suffer a disk crash.

As a consequence, it’s the browser that will be queen. This explains why Google has invested effort in inventing Chrome. Although it doesn’t actually explain why it’s investing in developing the Chrome OS, if it is seen as just a simple and cheap OS that exists to provide an optimised platform for a Chrome browser, as advertised, then it makes more sense. For mainstream users, the browser will be all they need, and both Windows and OSX will be over-featured, over-priced, and irrelevant.

Gruber also thinks that competition would improve the state of affairs. The market has a traditional and valuable way of settling debates around alternatives, but there is also such as thing as a “regulated infrastructure”, where there is value in commoditising or standardising a platform or an interface, because it enables the vertical segmentation of a market and can actually increase competition. To this end, some competition in the OS area is good, but arguably too much is bad. For that reason, the Chrome OS will, I hope, give a good shaking up to the duopoly in the personal computer market, but too many other entrants won’t help. I don’t see Linux gaining significantly more share; they have missed their chance through too much fragmented effort, and not enough work on dumbing down the interface. That’s a shame, but they may make a comeback in the future under another guise. 


You need only need to scratch the surface of Twitter to find that there are a gazillion people spending considerable time planning, taking, editing, and uploading photos, for viewing by friends, family, and utter strangers. You need only look a little deeper and see that many of these photos are very, very good. With the rise of cheap excellent digital cameras, and easy-to-use editing software, the bar to entry has been blown away, and amateurs everywhere are taking advantage of it. As a result, even on the basis of statistics, the web is awash with excellent photos. 

There are some people that stand out, and you might have to be just lucky to come across them, but one that sticks out for me is aremac. His photos are literally saturated with colour (the saturation dial is turned to 11), but it works for him. Check out his most “favourited” shots. I just wish he put larger versions up so I could use them as desktop backgrounds, but perhaps he risks exploitation. I subscribe to his feed, and he uploads something most days. Recommended.