Google lauds the Web as programming model

Company touts technologies like 3D capabilities and cloud efforts at its Google I/O conference as CEO Eric Schmidt promoted Web-based programming as a successor to mainframe and PC models

Preaching the Web as the new programming model, Google officials lauded several technologies, including 3D browser capabilities and an ability to easily add Google applications to Web pages, at the Google I/O conference on Wednesday.

The company also said it would give out 4,000 Android phones to attendees at the event in San Francisco for the purpose of boosting development on the platform. Executives from Google and partners touted HTML 5 as a cornerstone technology enabling a range of capabilities in the browser visualization space.

[ Last month,  Google added Java to its App Engine cloud service, a move that drew the ire of Sun's open source chief.]

Also highlighted were a range of developments like an expansion of Java developer access to the Google App Engine cloud platform. Google discussed the upcoming Google Web Toolkit 2.0, which is set to feature such enhancements as browser-based debugging capabilities.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt preached an Internet-based programming model as a successor to mainframe and PC models.

"We finally now have the networks, the businesses, the programmers, the programming tools that can build the kind of platform and the kind of opportunities that I want to highlight," Schmidt said.

Meanwhile, Vic Gundotra, Google vice president of engineering and a former Microsoft employee, told attendees to never underestimate the Web. "It's a mistake I once made," he said.

Gundotra recalled once believing Web applications could never rival desktop applications. But Google's 2004 acquisition of Keyhole, which offered visualization technology that let to Google's Maps application marked a change, he said.

The Web has won, Gundotra said. "It has become the dominant programming model for our time," he said.

HTML 5, said Gundotra, has enabled a move beyond Web 2.0 applications. Chief among the HTML 5-inspired technologies demonstrated was Canvas, offering drawing and animation APIs with pixel-level control.

Gundotra chided Microsoft for standing alone amongst browser vendors in not supporting Canvas its Internet Explorer browser. "Obviously, Microsoft, with its very large market share, could do much to move the Web forward," said Gundotra. Microsoft could not be reached to comment on its Canvas plans on Wednesday.

Google's open source O3D project was detailed. It offers 3D graphics inside the browser and featuring a JavaScript API. A demonstration of O3D showed it running inside Google's Chrome browser. But enabling rich 3D graphics inside browsers by default will require a common set of APIs, said Matthew Papakipos, Google engineering director. Google is working with other browser vendors, such as Apple and Mozilla, on such an effort.

"We still have a long way to go, but we've begun the process," Papakipos said. He also urged developers to build real-world applications for 3D.

Also cited was an HTML 5 capability enabling browsers to better handle video. The company also launched Google Web Elements, for adding Google applications such as Maps, Search, News and Calendar to a Web site or blog. Developers simply copy and paste the Google application onto a site.

In expanding Java developer access to App Engine from a select few to a broader range of developers, Google Tech Lead Kevin Gibbs noted developers thus far have been able to get a range of languages running on App Engine via the Java Virtual Machine, including JRuby, Scala, Groovy, and PHP.

"The interest in our Java language support since we launched [Java capabilities for App Engine] a month and a half ago has been remarkable," Gibbs said. Google in coming months plans to fit App Engine with background processing for jobs and large objects support for applications.

In detailing Google Web Toolkit 2.0, Google's Andrew Bowers, a product management official, said the release would offer developer-guided code splitting, or runAsynch, for splitting JavaScript files across multiple files. This technology is intended to address a situation in which the JavaScript code base would grow as developers use HTML 5 capabilities. Without a solution, users would have to wait and wait for an application to finish loading, he explained.

The planned "Donut" release of Google's Android mobile phone software was highlighted, featuring a text-to-speech API.

Google also announced the second phase of its Android Developer Challenge, through which developers can build applications for the mobile platform. Awards will be presented to the top applications, with these announced in November.

Mozilla Vice President Jay Sullivan touted JavaScript performance in the planned Firefox 3.5 browser. "JavaScript performance is three times faster than it was in 3.0 and 10 times faster than it was in 2.0," he said.

Sullivan lauded the Web as a development platform.

"More than any single operating system, the Web is going to drive the innovation and the new services that are going to do amazing things for people around the world," he said.

Video on the Web, meanwhile, must be freed from "plug-in prison," Sullivan said.

He also cautioned against fragmentation of the Web and stressed that standards need to be held together. Browser vendors need to work together on this, he said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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