RIA runtime engines are all the rage and Google has now thrown its hat into the ring with the release of Native Client, an open-source technology for running x86 native code in web applications. This is already done today by Adobe Flash Player, MS SilverLight, Java and other less popular technologies on the market. In many cases, these alternate solutions offer more features and better performance than Native Client promises.
All in all, Google wanted to take a stab at solving the problem of how to manage local resources on a computer without the limitations of ECMAscript in a web page or the web browser’s sandbox.
Those who have been in the industry for a while may relate this Web Browser / Native Client interdependency to Director / Xtras, and may also remember that Adobe had always deflected the industry’s request to support Xtras in Flash. On the other hand, we can also recall the rise and demise of ActiveX Controls for Internet Explorer back during the time of Microsoft’s plans for world domination. Not that I believe that there was anything wrong with their ambition either.
Let’s also mention that Google Gears, Google’s native extension to web browsers that implements features such as: database functionality and geolocation among others, is a specific instance of what can be developed with Native Client.
Google’s Native Client comes with the hefty promise of “faster, more powerful web apps.” Competition is always good in the sense that it brings new ideas to the industry and keeps incumbents awake, but so far, it looks like Google’s Native Client has a long way to go to even start to be a threat to Adobe or Microsoft.