Will Chrome apps change your daily digital life? Probably. We’re at the beginning of a major revolution, and most people have no idea.
While the war between OS X, Windows, and Linux rages on, in comes Google and changes the rules of the game.
These are applications that run in the Chrome browser, and instantly turn it into an operating system. So with the Google Chrome OS, Mountain View has inserted an “OS within an OS” that competes with Office on Windows and Apple computers, creating an ecosystem of similar applications we like to call your “digital life.” Let’s dig into the details.
What’s the difference between an app, a web app, and a Google app?
Technically, these new products are indistinguishable from a traditional application. You can use the Chrome apps offline, launched directly from your desktop with the Chrome App Launcher, which appears automatically when you install the first Chrome app on your computer.
The only real difference you’ll notice is that in order to run a Chrome app, the Chrome browser has to be installed (but not necessarily open). You can’t use the Chrome apps with other web browsers.
So is this what we used to call a web app? Not really, because Chrome apps can also be used offline, run from the desktop via the launcher.
Clear as mud? Pretty much! Google itself declared, in an interview with The Verge, that “users may not fully comprehend what a Chrome App really is, and that’s fine.” With those reassuring words (!), things will hopefully become clearer with time…
Google Apps, still quoting Google, unite “the speed, security, and flexibility of the modern web with powerful features previously available only in software installed on your devices.”
A concrete example: Wunderlist for Chrome. Once installed, you can launch it just like a normal desktop application. It opens in a window totally independent of Chrome, and you can use it offline.
If you upload your task list, and you’re logged in with your account, it will be saved in the cloud (if you’re connected to the internet) and you can access it from any other device.
From the point of view of integration with hardware, there’s no big difference compared to traditional desktop applications. This new category of app can access devices connected to your computer via USB and Bluetooth. These apps also support digital cameras.
Obviously they are closely linked to the Google cloud: everything is saved on Google Drive (but also locally, if you’d like). In addition to the convenience of having all your documents in one virtual place, Chrome continuously syncs your work. This means that with a simple login to your account from any computer, you can resume your work exactly where you left off.
At the time of writing, there are about 50 Chrome apps available in the store.
What does this mean for us? And why should a developer create a Chrome app instead of a traditional desktop app?
Many devices, a single operating system
At this early stage, the impact of Chrome apps on the world of computing isn’t immediately obvious. But a revolution is just around the corner.
Google Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, and is available for all fixed and mobile devices. This means that a developer can write an app just once, and it will run on all fixed and mobile devices – just create it once, as a Chrome app. And anyone with a PC, Mac, Linux, Android, or iPhone computer/device can use it (and it runs on Google Chrome OS devices, of course).
The potential impact of this new product on the app market is remarkable. Chrome apps are a kind of Trojan horse (in the traditional sense of the term, not in the malware context!) that are setting the foundations for the takeover of other operating systems. Not only that: Google Chrome OS is shaping up to be a top-level operating system like Windows and OS X by using Chrome apps, which will include everything you need to work, play, produce, create, and more.
Of course, this won’t happen overnight. It’ll be a few years yet before you can count on a quantity and quality similar to applications currently available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. But if this gigantic Google project takes hold among developers, success with users will happen naturally and easily. This could be a real change agent. We’re following these developments with interest!