Xcerion makes Internet OS real

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!