Intel boosts JavaScript with River Trail release

September 13, 2012 // 10:10 a.m.

Tags: #html5 #idf #intel #javascript #renee-james #river-trail #transparent-computing

Intel has sent Renée James, senior vice president and general manager of its software and services group, to the annual Developer Forum to reveal more details of what the company is calling 'transparent computing.'

According to a presentation by James made late last night, the concept of transparent computing is best envisioned as an open development ecosystem resulting in code that can run across multiple environments and devices - putting an end to the problem of developing one app for desktops, another for tablets, another for smartphones and so forth.

'With transparent computing, software developers no longer must choose one environment over another in order to maintain profitability and continue to innovate,' claimed James. 'Consumers and businesses are challenged with the multitude of wonderful, yet incompatible devices and environments available today. It's not about just mobility, the cloud or the PC; what really matters is when all of these elements come together in a compelling and transparent cross-platform user experience that spans environments and hardware architectures. Developers who embrace this reality are the ones who will remain relevant.'

The secret to truly transparent computing, James explained, is HTML5. Using HTML5, Intel thinks, developers will be able to better address multiple devices from a single development branch - although, naturally, this applies more to some applications than others. A social networking or image sharing service over HTML5 is pretty sensible, for example; a first-person shooter, while possible, is not.

To demonstrate its commitment to HTML5, James announced that Intel has worked with Firefox creator Mozilla to produce a native implementation of the River Trail project. Originally developed at Intel Labs, River Trail is designed to provide data-parallelism for web applications. The result is JavaScript code that runs significantly faster on modern multi-core processors. For both Intel and Mozilla such technology is a major win: Mozilla gets an early lead in high-performance JavaScript, while Intel finds a way to convince those who just use a web browser that a quad-core - or higher - processor is a sound investment after all.

Initially available as a prototype extension, the River Trail technology will eventually be added to Firefox browsers natively - and, should it prove as successful as Intel hopes, will likely be snapped up by other browser makers. That's good news for everyone: when even smartphones are beginning to standardise on dual-core processors, sequential single-threaded code is the biggest bottleneck of all. By taking JavaScript, possibly the most popular web scripting language around, and allowing developers to quickly exploit the parallel processing capabilities of modern hardware, Intel and Mozilla are narrowing the gap between browser-based and native applications.

If you're curious, more information on River Trail is available on the project's GitHub repository - but it comes with a warning that the prototype plugin should be disabled for general browsing.

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