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Friday November 28th 2014

Is Mozilla’s Webian Shell An Answer to Google’s Chrome OS?





Mozilla Labs is generating a lot of buzz with its announcement of Webian Shell, which, as Digitizor notes, "basically consists of a browser which will replace the traditional desktop, and where the web applications are given more importance than the native applications." You can download the early version of Webian Shell for Windows, Mac OS and Linux, but be warned that it exists in a very early version at this point. You can get a look at it here. Is Webian Shell an answer to Google’s Chrome OS?

Ever since Google announced Chrome OS, some have speculated that Mozilla might come up with answer to the cloud-centric OS. At the same time, OStatic and others have questioned whether the extremely two-fisted focus that Chrome OS puts on storing data and applications in the cloud might be a shortcoming. 

Webian Shell is not the same animal as Chrome OS, which has operating system components built into its platform level. Rather, Webian Shell–at least in its early form–is more akin to graphical desktop environments that sit on top of existing environments. Still, the emphasis that it places on cloud apps will cause comparisons to be drawn between it and Chrome OS.

According to Digitizor

"In the coming week, Google is releasing its first Chromebooks – netbooks which are based completely on a cloud OS and in which the traditional desktop has been replaced by the web browser. Mozilla too has released the first concept of something along that line."

Currently, Webian Shell is based on Mozilla Chromeless–an attempt to replace the traditional browser with an environment that is especially friendly to HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that it runs on top of existing operating systems rather than replacing them. That means many things, and one of them is that you can still run locally installed apps and store data locally with Webian Shell. Chrome OS eschews these longstanding concepts.

We’ll see where Mozilla goes with Webian Shell, but it is worth noting that Google’s financing of Mozilla, which has been in place for years and feeds many Firefox users into Google’s lucrative search/ad ecosystem won’t necessarily go on forever.  That arrangement is up for consideration this year. Going forward, Mozilla may be hedging its bets with both a browser and a desktop environment that can compete with Google’s.

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