Until Chrome came along, Google's Master Mobile Plan didn't quite add up. Now it does. Chrome -- Google's new superbrowser -- is cream on the top of a new mobile software stack. Let's call it GACL, for Gears, Android and Chrome on Linux. Gears is a way to run Web apps on desktops and store data locally as well as in the cloud. Android is a development framework for Linux-based mobile devices. Chrome is a browser, but not just for pages. Chrome also runs apps. In that respect, it's more than the UI-inside-a-window that all browsers have become. It's essentially an operating system.

For those of us old enough to remember, Chrome's symbol calls to mind Simon, one of the earliest electronic game toys with a digital brain:

You can't play with Chrome on Linux yet, but when Google promises a product on multiple platforms, it generally delivers soon enough. (And, as Marcel just pointed out , there are already ways for Linux folken to jump early on the bandwagon.) Android phones haven't hit the beach in waves yet either, but count on that too.

Then what?

Well, then the game changes. Remember back when Marc Andreessen raised Microsoft's hackles by saying Netscape would "reduce Windows to a set of poorly debugged device drivers"? Netscape failed to do that, but Google won't. It's not just that Google is Netscape II, it's that Google has a platform here. At the bottom that platform is the OS of your choice. At the top is a browser built from the start to run apps and not just pages.

Chrome is not in a "browser war" with Firefox and Internet Explorer. It's a different animal. As Nick Carr puts it, "(Google's) real goal, embedded in Chrome's open-source code, is to upgrade the capabilities of all browsers so that they can better support (and eventually disappear behind) the applications. The browser may be the medium, but the applications are the message."

Will Google upgrade its current apps and introduce new ones that run best or only in Chrome and Chrome-compatible browsers? Count on it. Yesterday at Blog World Expo a user told me that Gears running in Firefox (as an add-in) made Gmail fly.

But the real sweet spot here isn't computers. It's mobile phones. Here's how David Berlind puts it:

By offering mobile developers an alternative way for making their mobile applications run on handsets, even when no wireless connection exists, Google is paving the way for developers to build browser-based applications that can run on any mobile platform, as opposed to having to build separate versions of their applications in order to support those same mobile platforms.

What Google's doing with GACL is opening up the Net. Everything Google does to improve the Net's infrastructure — from investing in fiber backbones to building "cloud" servers, apps and services — widens the range of what people can do on the Net. Nick Carr again:

I think Google is motivated by something much larger than its congenital hatred of Microsoft. It knows that its future, both as a business and as an idea (and Google's always been both), hinges on the continued rapid expansion of the usefulness of the Internet, which in turn hinges on the continued rapid expansion of the capabilities of web apps, which in turn hinges on rapid improvements in the workings of web browsers.

Nick calls Chrome "the first cloud browser", and perhaps it is.

Now look at the success Apple is having with the closed and proprietary iPhone, which is essentially a data device on which telephony is just one application among countless others. What happens when the best-debugged devices are driven by GACL, without limitations imposed by any one company's lock-ins?

Dig this: Motley Fool reports,

When Deutsche Telekom's (NYSE: DT) T-Mobile launches the first Android handset next Wednesday, the Android app store will be fully stocked with its own user-friendly applications. Google hosted a programming competition with a total of $10 million in prizes to ensure that there would be top-notch applications available on Day One. The Android team wants a "vibrant third-party developer community," and here's the kicker — all of the app store revenue will be passed on to the developers. Google keeps nothing. (Apple takes 30% of all revenue from its App Store offerings; developers get the other 70%.)

It's open season for developers, and an open market for everybody.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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Flash support

Misafir's picture

It's building up to be a battle between Google, Yahoo, and Apple with open standards in one corner, and Adobe with Flash (proprietary standard) in the other corner. This is why you will never see Flash support in an iPhone.

I think that google Chrome

Tom8787's picture

I think that google Chrome is cool innovation. I am using it right now and I am more than happy with it.


LOL I can remember having

Andy Linfield's picture

LOL I can remember having one of the toys as a kid. I feel old! Just a reminder how fast technology moves.

Andy (Vacuum Cleaner Webmaster)

Developers do not get all the revenue

Anonymous's picture

I just signed up for a developer account on the android marketplace. Developers do not get all the revenue, we pay 30% in a "Transaction Fee".


The above link is from the Android Developer Distribution Agreement (Section 3.2)

Getting schooled

Doc Searls's picture

I love this. It takes Mike Arrington to school, but me too, in a way. :-)

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

GACL=DIGG=Nice Marketing

Vahe 's picture

Yes, this is very cool. It's all built on open standards of Javascript, CSS, and HTML. Apple has the same idea. Just check out That's no longer a website. It's a real "web app", which is the same sort of thing that Gears enables you to do. Apple just happens to use an open source package called SproutCore. But regardless, both Google and Apple use Webkit as their open source code base for both Safari and Chrome.

It's building up to be a battle between Google, Yahoo, and Apple with open standards in one corner, and Adobe with Flash (proprietary standard) in the other corner. This is why you will never see Flash support in an iPhone. The big elephant in the room of course is Microsoft, which has taken direct aim at Flash/Flex webapps with Silverlight, which happens to be another proprietary system. Developers and designers love Flash, MS has deep pockets, and Apple and Google are committed to doing "the right thing", so I don't think we will see a dominate player for some time to come.

GLAC? How about something pronouncable -

Ben's picture

CLAG (see-lag) is at least something which can be said without spelling.

at last...

the anti google baloney's picture

At last, someone who gets it...
Mind you, there are STILL people dumb enough, who talk about the "g-phone"...


Is this guy for real ?

vm's picture

Yeah, it is all coming together in a "stack". A browser that only runs on windows and runs windows apps will run on linux ( wasn't it their mobile platform). Using what - wine ?!

Unless google is planning to make windows (CE) their mobile platform, none of this makes sense to anyone but the 'doc'.

pc in your pocket

tricknology's picture

i strongly agree with your idea and like the gacl framework you have suggested. with the increased popularity of ultra mobile 'web orientated' notebooks like the asus eeepc needing only to run more slimline operating systems (xp/small linux distro) what's to stop a mobile platform like android itself becoming the most used OS for every day web browsing? i'd love to see an open source based os running on a mobile phone with a celio redfly like extender (allows you to see mobile screen on a laptop like device with full keyboard via wireless connection). the idea of a *real* pc in your pocket - decent processing power, wireless broadband access and tons of storage on cloud servers is not hard to imagine. now you can edit images online and there are subscription based streaming music services the need for a 'real' laptop or 'pc' gets smaller... for the average 'browse, write a few documents and spreadsheets and edit the odd image' user that is... and perhaps not the tech savvy, more demanding, geek-tweekers out there like the people likely reading this.

still - the idea of cloud computing on open source based platforms just got more believable


Panonymous's picture

from the article: "What happens when the best-debugged devices are driven by GACL, without limitations imposed by any one company's lock-ins?"

How is the GAC in GACL not "one company's lock-ins"?

Here a small preview of the

Anonymouse's picture

Here a small preview of the article in Russian language.

I don't know if this thing

Anonymous's picture

I don't know if this thing you call the "internet" will really take off..

Cloud Computing

Gene's picture

Imagine being able to run anything on anything and being able to write whatever you want to run if it doesn't exist yet and know that it will work on anything. I've got to admit it's getting better...

uhh... yeah!

Anonymous's picture

uhh... yeah!

this is absurd

Sleepingcat's picture

Why are you guys always talk about new OS based on browser. Not everyone has speedy internet connection, in majority of people are not using internet.

CloudOS or whatever you called it, it's just an absurd imagination, like the force power of Jedi.

in my country you get

Anonymous's picture

in my country you get internet even if you are homeless. Google has given the third world a satellite network so they can jump on the bandwagon too. There isn't hardly any place left without fast internet. It might not all be the 50MBit fibre that we have got here, but it will be fast enough!

Why do some people embrace

pool's picture

Why do some people embrace stagnant ideas and shun innovation? It boggles my mind that you would choose digital slavery over freedom.


David Bradley's picture

Yep, this is what I said about it, the day it was leaked, they're definitely heading for CloudOS land

Chrome is only part of it

Steve Wart's picture

It doesn't matter that Chrome doesn't run on Linux or Mac OS X. Those platforms already have strong WebKit-based browsers. In a way this is a browser war, but it's not to kill IE, it's to kill Firefox. But even then, it's not personal like the sad little bout between Netscape and IE (which for some reason makes me think of Mike Tyson), it's about creating higher-functioning cross-platform standards.

Mobile apps need to work offline. Safari on iPhone has a funky database API, Google has Gears. No developer wants to target dozens of handsets, but most don't mind targeting two or three platforms. But the platforms need to have essentially the same capabilities. Apple and Google are complementing each other quite nicely here. Microsoft will continue to do well with the power-sucking desktop and console market, but for my money, the interesting work is in the mobile space.

It will be interesting to see how long Java and C-based languages hold out in this new environment. Who knew that JavaScript would be the next big thing? Again.

Maybe, Maybe Not

PXLated's picture

I don't know Doc. From what I've seen so far I'm not that impressed and it has an extremely long ways to go to even touch the closed iPhone system. And Linux hasn't exactly taken the desktop/laptop market by storm. I can easily see Android ending up the same way, a niche.


thejart's picture

...but when Google promises a product on multiple platforms, it generally delivers soon enough.

not exactly true. i've been waiting for a native version of picasa on linux for nearly two years. google is first and foremost a business. linux is still a small market and their attention is always going to be turned towards the market. i'm a huge fanboy of google, but let's be realistic here, linux is still a second-class citzen of the net, *even* to google.


Anonymous's picture


bringing spying to LINUX does not make sense at all.

i'll stick with trusted open source apps

Has everyone forgotten that

Anonymous's picture

Has everyone forgotten that Google bought up a nice startup company called GrandCentral ( One phone number, one voicemail. Just browse the features this brings to the plate. Stack that with Android, Chrome, Gears, Linux, and throw in a little gtalk and you have yourself one complete solution.

Maybe you missed the part

Anonymous's picture

Maybe you missed the part where Chrome does not run on Linux?

toys as a kid

gold's picture

LOL I can remember having one of the toys as a kid. I feel old! Just a reminder how fast technology moves.

Maybe you missed this:

Anonymous's picture

Maybe you missed this...

Anonymous's picture

The article you linked describes Chrome running in a Wine environment. Chrome still *requires* Windows (or at least parts of it) because it is programmed using the WTL (MS's "response" to the STL). Wine does not run on non-x86 CPUs, and you are a very funny person if you think you can run a processor emulator on an ARM9 and still get a responsive application that is running in Wine.

HTML5 browser based mobile

King's picture

Love to see the GACL in place, however the same concept was demonstrated to me by one of my friends with a working HTML5 Browser running videos and google maps in Kolkata 2 months back, if this comes I will sure love to have a HTML5 phone in my hand.

T-Mobile Android phone app store is closed

Angry developer's picture

Unfortunately T-Mobile isn't allowing third party apps inside their Android phone app store. All the talk of "openness" and GACL is for naught, at least with this first G-phone.

Not yet, anyway

Doc Searls's picture

As was the case with Apple, Google starts at a disadvantage in its relationships with carriers. The phones need market success before contributors to that success can start using their leverage.

What Google wants is to make Android — and GACL — a far more attractive platform for developers than the iPhone. That's why they held that competition. That's why they pass through sales revenues to developers. That's where the market is inevitably headed.

As attractive as the iPhone is for developers, it's still a walled garden controlled by a single company that not only controls that garden and competes with its inhabitants, but banishes direct competitors with its own software. In The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It, explains how true platforms such as Linux, Windows, the Macintosh OS, IBM's original PC and Steve Jobs' Apple ][ were all generative. That is, they were not only supportive of everything that depended on them, but were responsible for generating whole markets for software, hardware and services. Yes, there was bad behavior around the proprietary OSes, but they were still far more generative than Apple allows the iPhone to be.

Google has better aspirations for Android phones. Once they start coming into the market in large numbers, count on GACL emerging as a platform independent of any equipment maker.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Apple not as closed as you think

Albert Willis's picture

It's more complicated than closed vs. open. There would be no Chrome or Android browser without WebKit, which Apple has invested tons of resources into. SquirrelFish Extreme + WebKit + Gears will allow Apple to make the iPhone the premier place to run mobile web apps. Plus the web apps will actually look good.

The primary reason for Apple's stance on the App Store is about the user experience and security. It'll certainly be easier for Apple--over time--to loosen some restrictions vs. Google, which will probably have to a little more restrictive than they currently are.

Of course, with T-Mobile capping data at 1 GB per month, then throttling users to 50kbps vs. AT&T unlimited data at 3G speeds, and tens of millions device lead, Apple doesn't have much to worry about. As good as Android is, it's no Mac OS X, which is at the heart of the iPhone.


FredR's picture

Love the acronym. Guess we can say GACL (gackle?) is the new LAMP.

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

GALC = Gaelic....would be much better.

Anonymous's picture

Come on....with those letters...we can do much better!

How about GALC = Gaelic

Nicer Name

Keith Neo's picture

GALC or GACL? My preference is the latter, but too bad, whoever came up with the name has agreed it's going to be GACL. Sounds like "calculator" to me.

GACL or...?

Doc Searls's picture

I'd like to say I thought carefully before coming up with GACL, but I didn't. I just looked at several combinations that suggested pronunciation, and picked one that had relatively few results on a search engine.

I'm not attached to GACL. If it works, it's good. If not, something else will. On goes life.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal