Chromebooks and WebGL

Chromebooks are becoming more popular. Their cost and what they do are at the right level for a lot of people. They are doing so well that some are forecasting Chromebook sales to triple by 2017. If that holds up, that is going to have positive outcomes for web systems, subscription based services, mobile internet, and the growth of computers in general. The Acer Chromebook 13 with a 13″ screen and Nvidia processor is just one of the latest examples of the potential for Chromebook. Another announcement such as those from Microsoft could portend another avenue for software in Chromebook, Android, iOS as well as conventional environments.

Chromebooks are affordable and their offline abilities are improving at a steady pace. Eventually, you may be able to run a Chromebook without a web connection much as you do conventional laptops. That is probably some years off but there are some technologies that will help with that. One of those technologies is WebGL.

The Khronos Group is greatly improving the OpenGL and WebGL graphics technologies. These technologies allow you to create web applications that are much closer to desktop applications in capability, power, depth of functionality and speed. Microsoft is reported as having joined the Khronos Group’s WebGL working group. As Microsoft begins to emphasize cloud services more, leveraging WebGL could be a way to recreate more of their software for the Web in a way that maintains the value of their software.

WebGL would be the faster, smoother, more powerful alternative to existing web technologies. I have spoken about the prospects for Web native graphics in Google Chrome as well as Microsoft’s adoption of WebGL in IE11. Things have changed quite a bit since those posts. Now, we are seeing higher adoption of Chromebooks in schools; the possibility of Chromebooks to make technology more available; and major industry participants such as Intel and Nvidia are improving upon OpenGL technologies. An example is the rapid release of an OpenGL graphics driver from Nvidia following the announcement by the Khronos Group about the finalization of OpenGL 4.5.

Change continues. Apple has strong momentum in high quality, streamlined, well tailored computers from one direction. Google has partners in HP, Acer, Asus, and Samsung rebuilding the PC market from the other direction. In between, the incumbent makers of software may have to adapt to new techniques, technologies, and distribution methods. Across the board, high quality software founded on OpenGL for Linux based devices (Chromebook, Android, or general Linux), Apple based UNIX devices, or the Web with WebGL may raise the satisfaction levels with softwares running in these environments.

Software running in a Web browser may never fully match those that are thoroughly native running within an operating system. Yet, there are some software applications that do not need that level of speed, granularity, and sophistication. They can still benefit from native technology that is more easily accessed through a web browser. As to the other software technologies? We have platform specific frameworks, a topic I go into in my post about my insights into cross platform applications, and cross platform, high performance graphics solutions such as SFML that I explore in a related post about SFML Graphics in C++.

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