Blog Post

Google launches Portable Native Client, eliminating chip fragmentation in Chrome

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(s goog) 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(s armh) 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(s nflx), 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.

Although PNaCl is specific to Chrome, Google says developers can take advantage of pepper.js and the Pepper API via Javascript.

4 Responses to “Google launches Portable Native Client, eliminating chip fragmentation in Chrome”

  1. pkdecville

    This may be way off base, but is PNaCL a threat to the open web?

    For example, is there such a thing as a PNaCL enabled website and, if so, will PNaCL web sites be accessible to Safari and Explorer?

  2. > PNaCl will let programmers write …

    I’m so weary of platforms acting as gatekeepers and journalists helping them out by using descriptive terminology such as “they will *let* programmers do this” … they [Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, AWS, et al] “will *allow* you to … “.

    Sigh. This is antithesis of open source movements and the theme behind Alexis Ohanian’s “Without Their Permission”. Ohanian’s view is the permissionless web! Besides, if today’s leviathans treat developers as serfs and platforms as castles, long term that’s a losing strategy given the world we live in with the democratized Internet and WWW.

    Let ‘s please stop using phrases such as “they will let you” or “allow” or “permit”. These terms and mental models are too hierarchical old school and not enough grass roots / collaborative … and GigaOm falls into the old oligarchical viewpoint trap :)