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Google's Native Client Makes Web Apps More Desktoppy

Google's Native Client Makes Web Apps More Desktoppy

Google and various game developers recently showed off the early fruits of their Native Client efforts. Chrome Native Client is designed to make it easier for developers to write sophisticated Web apps more quickly and with less strain. "This is exciting to users because it enables applications that were previously confined to the desktop to come to the Web," said Google's Claudine Beaumont.

By Rachelle Dragani
12/12/11 11:05 AM PT

Google showed off the results of its Native Client SDK at an in-house event recently, highlighting some of the ways early adopters such as Square Enix, Unity Technologies and Bungie have used the Web development technology.

Google originally launched the Native Client SDK in beta toward the end of last summer in an effort to integrate Web-building tools with compiled code in one easy-to-use browser. The company aims to simplify the jobs of developers by making it possible to run code natively in Chrome.

Now that developers and content producers -- mostly those of interactive games or other apps with heavy computations such as photo or video editing -- have had some time to play around with the product, games and apps are starting to debut under Native Client.

Those game developers recently had a chance to showcase what they've been able to do with Native Client, or NaCl -- the chemical formula name for table salt.

Seamless Integration

NaCl is, among other things, a response to a frustrated group of gamers and developers who ran into problems integrating content or trying to play games with friends on a mix of PCs and consoles, according to Google.

Running content in a single space, or on any program that already runs in Chrome, could not only save time and resources for developers who would otherwise have had to create a separate running platform, but could also allow both users and developers to switch back and forth between platforms.

With NaCl, it's possible to write in C, C++ or C# easily, making an enormous project with more than 500,000 lines of code like Spacetime Studio's "Star Legends" take just two weeks, according to Google's Christian Stefansen.

"Native Client has reached the maturity and feature set that makes it compelling for app developers, who will be able to build high-performance apps that were not previously possible and reach Chrome's more than 200 million users via the Chrome Web Store," Claudine Beaumont, a Google communications and public affairs representative, told TechNewsWorld. "This is exciting to users because it enables applications that were previously confined to the desktop to come to the Web. It is exciting for developers because they can use their existing code bases, skills and infrastructure to build Web apps, thus getting on the Web much faster and avoiding code base fragmentation and costly app rewrites."

This could allow developers to build apps across iOS, Android and PC platforms to run right in Chrome. Also, NaCl aims to make it easier to run 2D and 3D graphics, including OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics, targeting especially gaming or editing apps that rely heavily on imagery. Other features include a mouse lock and full-screen API.

Google also promises Native Client will be more secure, a feature particularly relevant as apps across platforms become more abundant.

"In the gold rush for apps, security has taken a back seat, and popular app stores have been infected with botnets and Trojans. But installing security software to protect mobile devices is cumbersome and platform-dependent. App security should be delivered through the cloud as part of the service provider network itself," Amit Sinha, mobile security expert and CTO of Zscaler, told TechNewsWorld.

Answer to Frustration?

Google and the Chrome team hope that Native Client is the beginning of the future of integration for Web development.

"It's fair to say that we do believe that Native Client is helping to push the boundaries of the Web. It presents a positive opportunity for Web developers, ensuring the portability of apps between platforms, enhanced security and performance speeds comparable to a desktop app," said Beaumont.

Supergiant Games, one of the developers that has worked in NaCl and designed on of its top games, "Bastion," for the space, hopes Native Client can bring some fresh faces into the mix.

"We're very excited to have 'Bastion' now available on Chrome since it makes getting into the game easier than ever before and opens up the experience to tons of new players, including players using computers other than Windows-based PCs," Greg Kasavin, creative director at Supergiant Games, told TechNewsWorld.


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