Following up with its Native Client technology that lets apps created in traditional programming languages run in a browser, Google launched Portable Native Client, or PNaCl, on Tuesday. In a post on the Chromium blog site, Google says PNaCl “lets developers compile their code once to run on any hardware platform and embed their PNaCl application in any website.”
PNaCl will let programmers write their apps in either C or C++ where they will then be compiled into bytecode and then a “portable executable” to run inside of Chrome or Chrome OS. Chromebooks have already been taking advantage of Native Client; a prime example is a rich 3-D graphics game written in C++ that I play offline on a Chromebook Pixel. Today’s development extends the Native Client technology so that apps can be written once and run on devices powered by x86, ARM or MIPS processors.
Since Chromebooks today run on two different types of chips — both x86 and ARM — PNaCl solves the problem of apps running on some Chromebooks but not others. Netflix, for example, was available on x86 Chrome OS devices months before arriving on ARM-based Chromebooks due to the architecture difference. Now developers needn’t worry about chip compatibility.