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Xcerion makes Internet OS real

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Internet OS sector seems to be getting increasingly crowded. Start-ups such as YouOS, EyeOS are vying for mindshare with Internet giants like Google. The seriousness of market is reflected by the fact that earlier this month, Microsoft set up an all-star group to tackle the Cloud OS opportunities.

xcerion.gifA dark horse in this race is Xcerion, a Swedish start-up that came out of stealth earlier this month, and announced its XIOS, its XML-based Internet OS, and got subtle tip of the hat from some of the most respected technology pundits.

Xcerion, now about five years old has started out as a company developing a friendly user interface for enterprise resource management systems, has developed a back-end software infrastructure was offering a two megabyte download that looked and mimicked any regular desktop OS. They claimed it took less than five seconds to boot up, and was able to offer applications that did most things we expect from apps on a desktop.

Too good to be true? That was my initial reaction, though my skepticism was allayed by the that Xcerion counted Lou Perazzoli, a former Microsoft distinguished engineer and one of key architect of Windows NT, and John Connors, former Microsoft chief financial officer was an investor. These two, clearly are two people who know operating systems.

It also helped that a Swedish venture capital group, Northzone was investing $10 million in the company (PDF), and the much-respected Mary Jo Foley, who despite similar trepidations about the company, had given it subtle thumbs up.

Xcerion’s technology falls in the category of “seeing is believing” products. (See the gallery of exclusive screenshots at the end of this article.) Daniel Arthursson, CEO of the company demoed the product, and it was a jaw dropping moment, when skepticism gave way to tempered enthusiasm.

The little OS worked as promised over the pokey Starbucks wireless connection, and for a few seconds I did forget that this was coming off the Internet and windows running locally.

He showed me an Outlook-type email/day planner app, a RSS reader, a word processing application, an Excel style spreadsheet application and a bunch of other small applications. “You can continue to keep working in our XIOS when offline and the information is synced when you connect the next time,” says Arthursson.

The entire application can be customized – developers can create skins that resemble MacOS, BeOS or even bring back some of the old OSes that are now long forgotten. (OS/2 anyone?) XIOS comes with a visual application development environment which can be used by anyone to create small applications – lets call them widgets – which can be completely bespoke or sold to others.

“XML was the only way for us to keep the download small enough and also be able to reuse the code when creating new applications,” says Arthurson. Xcerion is going to launch in the third quarter of 2007, and has developed the backend technology, that runs on servers using Ubuntu Linux. The company is putting scalable data centers in place to be able to handle all the heavy lifting.

Imagine this application married to say Nokia N800 tablet? It could be a full-fledged computer in your pocket – all you need is a decent Internet connection. Or XIOS embedded on a cheap $100 laptop that can be used by schools or kids in the emerging economies? There are many possible scenarios, but lets wait for the XIOS to be released: we all want to see it to believe it!

22 Responses to “Xcerion makes Internet OS real”

  1. durunto

    Want the source code that work very good in offline in my pc. I make a OS but here several parts show errors. So want to check the codes.

  2. Charlie Sierra

    I thought MSFT fired (retired?) Jim Allchin?

    Ray Ozzie “internet cloud”? Hmmm.

    Interesting choice of name/jargon here, considering that Jim Allchin as a PhD canidate @ GaTech started the CLOUDS distributed operating system project way back in 1982.

    Oh well, who says the technology business is fast paced?

  3. It is somewhat wrong to compare XIOS to other WebTops and/or WebOS, since XIOS is more like a traditional operating system. Like Malik Om pointed out, it runs offline too, which is a big differentiator to all other web technologies and Internet services available today. It also includes an IDE for rapid application development.

    The offline feature proves that there is more going on in XIOS than just being a cool window manager for moving around web applications, mostly executing on the server side (using some server language). XIOS applications are built 100% in XML and are executed directly on the client without any server round trips.

    XIOS does not contain a kernel or device drivers. Why reinvent the wheel? Today’s commodity operating systems handles this with brilliance, what Xcerion wanted to do was to improve the layers of an OS that sits on top of the lowest core. The part of an OS where the most end user value is achieved. We wanted zero-installation and choose to use a browser as the UI rendering engine, however our OS consists of many of the parts that make up a traditional desktop OS. Including process handling, file system and programming APIs.

    Leveraging the network, XIOS uses XML and enables collaboration for all its applications. The OS also features XML Web Services support and a built in transaction manager for keeping all data synchronized in all scenarios. Since XIOS is built using AJAX technologies, current web applications may be run on XIOS (without offline support) and traditional server technologies like Java, PHP or .NET may be used to dynamically create XIOS XML applications (with offline support).

  4. because OS is a concept the mass market understands.

    If that assertion is true (never trust a marketer to tell you the truth), then I’d say it is more correct to call it a term the mass market misunderstands, thanks to marketing, and thanks to computers being too damn hard for people to use.

  5. folks, as about calling it an OS, i am guessing this is more of a marketing phrase used by the company (and others) because OS is a concept the mass market understands.

    A reader emailed me earlier today, and has this to say about Xcerion and its peers.

    I don’t think the intent is to replace an existing OS like Windows, Linux or OS X at the boot-level but rather to define an application platform in which data persistence and store are transparently managed between desktop and webtop instances.

  6. webtech,

    to answer your questions, the company says that XIOS will be free, and will be seeded with some applications built by the company.

    however they want individuals to build apps and they (Xcerion) will provide the infrastructure to sell and market those applications. they believe that XIOS’s ease of programming can create a new wave of shareware apps, and create opportunities for independent developers.

    on the speed issue, i did get to use it over a wifi connection, and it worked just fine. their offline element is what makes it interesting, since you can work offline but sync with the backend servers when you connect to the internet.

  7. Hi Om

    Did you check out – the Global Hosted Operating SysTem. Unlike Xcerion it works with the best third party Web applications and unlike Xcerion you can try it our on the Web without meeting the CEO in Starbucks (although you would be welcome to do that too if you like)! Of course we wish Xcerion all the best too – what matters is that we free the users from the absurdity of having data and apps tied to one physical PC.

    Zvi Schreiber

  8. Evan Wired

    Stop. Stop stop stop stop STOP calling these web toys “operating systems.” They aren’t. Aren’t aren’t aren’t. ARE. NOT.

    They are shells. Application environments. Web desktops, at a stretch. But to call them an OS is just plain sloppy and inexact and the hallmark of fluffy, empty-headed marketing bimbo thought. Any of you buying into that should have your cellphones, laptops and any online account rhyming with “frittr” taken away until you apologize and can pass a quiz on the actual basic functions of an operating system.

    Let that terminology catch on and you’re going to have a whole generation of tech support nightmares where the techie asks what OS the user is running, and the poor, clueless, marketing victim/user says “WebWidgetMonstr 3.14 Beta Venti Mocha Half Caff” and a long, unfunny round of “Who’s on first?” ensues.

    Just knock it off.

  9. Sundarlal Chuddha

    Dear jccodez sir,

    You are stuck in past. ‘kernal’ level doesn’t really matter to end users. the concept of OS is from last century only.

  10. jccodez

    Sorry, how is this an operating system: does it boot, does it provide memory management, a file system, networking, a hardware abstraction layer for device makers? The problem I see is the web 2.0 weenies think an os is some watered down loose framework built around xml. They have been abstracted so far from reality with their frameworks that they believe they are the giant, not that they are standing on the shoulders of giants. Until I read some white papers regarding what kernel level services this “os” provides, I will remain skeptical.

  11. Vow. This sounds like a radically new and direct approach to integrating desktop and internet. So who develops applications for xcerion OS? How much does it cost to rent a space on the server and save your environment? Is it fast enough for every day use.