With the demise of Sun Microsystems -- the late, lamented high-tech pioneer responsible for groundbreaking technologies like Java and Network File System -- it's looking more like Google has assumed the mantle of chief risk-taker and eye-opener in the software industry. Evidence of this can be seen with projects like the Dart programming language, Google Web Toolkit, and Native Client, which was the subject of a recent evening gathering at Google's Silicon Valley headquarters.
Native Client is for running native compiled code in the browser. It features a sandbox containing native code and Pepper interfaces, letting sandboxed code interact with the browser. The technology, though, remains of limited reach, and its level of security raises eyebrows.
At the event, Google brought onstage a few users of Native Client -- mostly gaming vendors -- to endorse the technology, which runs inside the Chrome browser. Through Native Client, "application developers can use native code safely in Chrome across all popular desktop operating systems, and they have access to a rich and growing set of resources from the browser," says Brad Chen, a Google tech lead. Native Client uses native machine instructions, and Google recognizes that historically has been a problem in terms of security. Google's sandbox approach prevents direct access to the native OS, thus boosting security, Chen says.
One of the companies championing Native Client, Heartwood, is using it for 3D interactive learning and lead-generation applications. Native Client helps customers avoid cumbersome plug-ins, says Heartwood vice president Neil Wadhawan: "We were always Web-enabled, but now we don't need our customers to download a plug-in."