Desktop apps coming to the Web: Google

While rumours still abound about whether Google plans to offer its own online office suite to compete with Microsoft Office, at least one of the search giant's engineers is forecasting a time when today's native client applications will be delivered through the browser.

Speaking at a Sydney University school of information technologies seminar, Google Maps lead engineer Lars Rasmussen told of how his startup company had developed a desktop map browsing application in C++ before being acquired by Google.

"Google said, 'we like the Web, what can you do?'," Rasmussen said, adding that within three weeks his team had something "as good" which it had spent the last three years working on.

"Traditionally, a Web site is about flipping pages but we took a different approach with Maps which is one page of Javascript," he said. "Javascript allows rapid development, the end user doesn't need to install software, and it is cross platform. Maps has a richer interface, like a desktop application." Last week Google released the Maps service out of beta and re-branded it Google Local and with the release of a free mapping API, there are now "thousands" of Web sites integrating maps for diverse information like housing prices and hurricane tracking.

Rasmussen, a Google US employee now based in Sydney, said browsers are now mature enough for richer applications and will only improve to become more desktop-like, such as Google's Windows-based spatial information application, Google Earth.

"My crystal ball has a lot more things like that coming out in the next couple of years," he said. "Sometime in the future the now native client Google Earth application will be possible in a browser."

A number of people are now working on a Linux port of Google Earth, but Rasmussen did not offer a release date.

Rasmussen conceded that different browsers can result in needing workarounds to resolve any inconsistencies, but "compare the pain of getting Javascript code working on different browsers to the pain of porting C++ code from a PC to a Mac".

On the possibility of an online office suite, Rasmussen said: "My crystal ball has a lot of applications, but not an office suite. But there are 3000 people that work for Google."

Rasmussen also announced his "ulterior motive" for his presence at Sydney University - the opening of a new, fully-fledged development centre in the city, where a "significant part" of the development work for Maps is already done out of a serviced office.

"We asked Google to start an office in Sydney [and] we are starting to hire for Google Maps," he said, adding, much to the amusement of the audience, "one of these days we will do Google Maps for Sydney [which] is coming soon".

According to Rasmussen, Google's design philosophy centres on end user loyalty not money, going beyond the browser's lowest common denominator, to develop simple Web applications that are as dynamic as native applications, and to launch early and often to learn from users.

Rasmussen offered plain advice for people wanting to develop a Web application, "Don't break the simplicity of the Web" because that is what made it so popular in the first place.

"Google has an amazing infrastructure to do this [and] we have the power to process it; all we need are engineers," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Rodney Gedda

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?