Before Google weighed in with Chrome OS, several vendors were already experimenting with the idea of supremely lightweight operating systems that relied on a constant Internet connection to access remote services more so than local applications. Jolicloud was a very promising entrant in the space and Sarah Perez has an update on the state of that OS.
Perez explains that these latest changes are just the most current in a series of evolutions for Jolicloud. Previously they changed from Mozilla’s Prism to the open source branch of Google’s browser, Chromium, to furnish the system’s back end. This coincided with a commitment to HTML5 for its ability to better support rich web applications. Undoubtedly there is no coincidence to this pair of changes as WebKit still has a solid lead on HTML5 feature support over Mozilla’s Gecko.
The recent raft of changes are focused on usability, with a new launcher, and discovery, updating Jolicloud’s version of an app store. Looking at the screen shot, Perez’s comparison of the launcher to a smart phone seems apt. In particular, it reminds me strongly of Android’s drawer. The app store is clearly aimed at easing development targeted at the OS and through a partnership even addressing the question of where to host web applications.
I have expressed skepticism of web OSes in the past, especially Chrome OS’s extreme take on network only applications. Jolicloud, by comparison, makes a better compromise, offering local access to resources and supporting local versions of many popular applications. I imagine it would be a fun OS with which to play on a 3G capable netbook. I also hope the fact that it is still very much a going concern invites friendly competition with Google’s Android and Chrome OS developers and sparks further innovation with lightweight, non-traditional interfaces.