Blog Post

Google Open Sources Skia Graphics Engine

Google ChromeI know I know… by now the world doesn’t need yet another Google Browser blog post, with yet another news item or a hands on review. How about something different, even though it was buried deep inside the Google Chrome announcement?

As part of the Chrome release, Google open sourced a big portion of Android’s graphic engine code. This code comes from the Skia Graphics Engine that was developed by Skia Inc., a company Google acquired in 2005. It was based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and was started by Michael Reed.

This vector graphics rendering software makes highend visual effects possible on feature phones. It is tiny in size and is capable of delivering very high quality. Skia’s engine is the graphics core of both Google Android and Google Chrome.

This is yet another proof point to my theory that Google Chrome is more about the mobiles and less about the desktops. By adding Skia engine to Chrome, Google can ensure good graphics performance on devices that don’t have graphics processing unit.

21 Responses to “Google Open Sources Skia Graphics Engine”

  1. @Om – I agree. Chrome is about mobiles (of course) but the desktop release is all about lightweight wrappers for web apps… which should eventually act as an ideal bridge between the cloud and one’s local environment…

    App wrappers… remember .HTA? Back in the early 2’s I was having a lot of fun making organically shaped IE wrappers to add an extra level of funk to my media apps (mostly delivered via CDs)… HTAs are a rather great web app platform (think xhtml’s Air), well would be if adoptance was closer to something rather than nothing.

  2. rogernolan

    I agree with Robert. This is a rendering driven issue to ensure consistency with Android (or mabe just to reuse the WebKit SGL port). For me the big deal in Chrome is V8 if we see a version of V8 that can generate ARM code or Dalvik bytecode then I’ll begin to see more of a pattern but I don’t think that will happen for Android v1.

  3. It may only take a (South) Asian to appreciate that a sub-$200 ARM-powered laptop (with Android with the OS, and Chrome as the browser) together with a sub-$100 mobile handset (also with Android as the OS) will bring *many more millions of new users* to the Internet. And hence of direct or indirect benefit to Google.

    There is a lot of submarine cables being laid, even with Google’s direct investments. Most Asian countries already have a great deal of terresterial fibre, mostly laid by state-owned utilities with incomparable rights-of-way. The last mile is the problem, but low-cost WiFi, WiMAX or even 3G will eventually address this opportunity (Google is also invested in these areas).

    Throw in YouTube, GMail, the other Google Apps, and the whole host of Android apps, and the possibilities are truly astounding. Remember that Google is also heavily invested in pursuing the mobile market in Japan (as the underdog to Yahoo).

    I am *not* a Google fan-boy, simply excited by the greater possibilities engendered by the millions of new Internet users that will come on-line in Asia, as direct consequence of Google’s efforts and investments.

  4. I don’t think there’s really much of a choice for them. If they didn’t include Skia on the desktop there would be a greater chance of inconsistency between platforms. This is bad because it means more of learning curve for developers, more places for bugs, and tons more code to maintain and optimize.

    Mozilla moved to Cairo for the purpose of consolidating the graphic libraries. Rather than use platform specific code, it all goes through Cairo. This change was huge in terms of effort, but the future is much brighter with the flexibility this now allows.

    I should note WebKit uses Cairo for SVG, canvas and the GTK port. I’m not sure if Chrome is using Cairo for SVG or canvas or if they switched it to Skia.

    Your over analyzing the situation to make a case for mobile. They had to coordinate this move for consistency and developer sanity.

  5. @Jeswin

    I think if you start thinking about the mobiles versus desktop, you are looking at it wrong. the whole point is to use this browser and bundled services to wedge and control the mobile environment of tomorrow not today.

    mobiles of today are not just phone but other devices. think of them as alternate desktops.

  6. I like your point of view regarding the mobile area.

    Still it won’t be enough to gain significant market share. Even with all this openness, the browser will not be a Microsoft Killer or Firefox Killer. I’m curious if Chrome can catch up with Safari.

  7. I think your theory is a little off; mobile web is currently a tiny, tiny market. If mobiles were really the focus of Chrome, Google will not have put the download link in the coveted Google homepage. It would have been some arrangement with the carriers.

    Of course. mobiles could also be part of their plan. But the bigger deal is that the evolution of this browser will make desktop grade applications possible over the browser.