As Google moves toward a release of its web-based Chrome OS later this year, developers are building applications with the ability to detect which way their host device is orientated.
The functionality mimics the screen-swapping action that is becoming a regular feature in today’s mobile devices; where motion sensors provide added levels of interactivity. The potential uses are many: such as the obvious switching the interface from portrait to landscape mode, or in gaming where on-screen actions are controlled by the device’s position.
Browsers currently do not have this capability, and given that Google’s Chrome browser is the basis of the forthcoming OS, adding it to Chrome is necessary. Since it is part of WebKit, it is not out of the question that orientation awareness may end up in Apple’s Safari browser as well. Mozilla has also been working on adding similar code to Firefox, and it made it into the most recent version of the browser that was released in late January of this year.
News of the new functionality should please Chrome developers, which have already been releasing applications ahead of the operating system’s release. Since games appear to already be a popular submission into Google’s version of the App Store (called the Chrome Web Store), this new code should provide a whole new set of possibilities.
What remains to be seen is if the web-based nature of Chrome OS could render the most intensive uses of features like orientation awareness less functional than traditional operating systems. Obviously web-based applications require a steady and fast network connection.
Since features like this would be data intensive and would require a lot of data being sent back and forth through the cloud, the potential for error is much greater. Google’s biggest challenge in adding features like this very well could come down to bandwidth.
That’s not to say advances in broadband will not render this point moot, nor that the industry is not heading towards a web-based future. There are quite a few analysts predicting just that.
“By 2014, mobile cloud computing will become the leading mobile application development and deployment strategy, displacing today’s native and downloadable mobile applications,” ABI Research senior analyst Mark Beccue said.