Google announces Chrome apps, a plan to win the desktop

On the fifth birthday of Google’s Chrome browser, the company has announced big plans for their flagship web browser. Chrome Apps, a new-generation of applications that build on top of Chrome that work cross platform and offline, just like any other desktop application.

The new applications — which appear at first glance to be plugins for the browser — are a play for the desktop of computers regardless of operating system. Google simply wants a piece of the pie in the offline world, as well as the online one.

The web has come a long way over the last few years and the company says that it’s finally great enough to allow for truly great desktop applications that are delivered by the web. It’s true, HTML5 has seen rapid adoption globally and it’s hard to remember how different the web was just a few years ago.

The idea is, if Google can get developers to build applications for their platform they should be able to run on Windows, OS X, Linux and even mobile devices with only one codebase.

The benefits are huge for developers and building a Chrome App offers a ton of useful features you probably won’t get at the OS level. A quick summary from the Chrome blog really shows the power of these new apps:

  • Work offline: Keep working or playing, even when you don’t have an internet connection.
  • More app, less Chrome: No tabs, buttons or text boxes mean you can get into the app without being distracted by the rest of the web.
  • Connect to the cloud: Access and save the documents, photos and videos on your hard drive as well as on Google Drive and other web services.
  • Stay up-to-speed: With desktop notifications, you can get reminders, updates and even take action, right from the notification center.
  • Play nice with your connected devices: Interact with your USB, Bluetooth and other devices connected to your desktop, including digital cameras.
  • Keep updated automatically: Apps update silently, so you always get all the latest features and security fixes (unless permissions change).
  • Pick up where you left off: Chrome syncs your apps to any desktop device you sign in to, so you can keep working.
  • Sleep easier: Chrome apps take advantage of Chrome’s built-in security features such as Sandboxing. They also auto-update to make sure you have all the latest security fixes. No extra software (or worrying) required.
  • Launch apps directly from your desktop: To make it quicker and easier to get to your favorite apps, we’re also introducing the Chrome App Launcher for Windows, which will appear when you install your first new Chrome App. It lives in your taskbar and launches your apps into their own windows, outside of Chrome, just like your desktop apps. Have lots of apps? Navigate to your favorite apps using the search box.

chromelauncher

If you’re a Windows or Chromebook user you can get these new style apps right now. There’s now a new category in the Chrome store called “for your desktop.” When you add your first Chrome app, the new launcher is automatically pinned to the taskbar for you.

Google wasn’t kidding about the Chrome-less UI either, the apps appear to run as native desktop applications. We’re certainly excited to finally have an offline Pocket client for the desktop! There’s a bunch of other great applications at launch such as a Wunderlist app and a full on 3D game called Cracking Sands that even lets you use a USB Xbox Controller. If this is just the start, we’re excited to see what is to come.

simpleThere are a ton of applications already available in the store, with more surely to come (we’re hanging out for a Tweetdeck update to support this). This news is huge and if developers embrace these new applications it could mean we start seeing consistent releases across platforms simultaneously.

Let us know in the comments if you find anything awesome!


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