Today is an important day for Google, as it marks the fifth anniversary of Chrome. From very humble beginnings came the fastest, most popular web browser on the planet. From that browser came Chrome OS, which is changing the face of desktop computing in many ways.
To celebrate the occasion, the Chrome team has given us something we’ve long been anticipating, which could have the same effect the browser ended up having on web navigation. Right under the Collections tab in the Chrome Web Store lies For Your Desktop, which were widely knows as packaged apps before today. Those apps, like software for traditional operating systems, run independent of the browser, and don’t need an internet connection. From the Chrome Blog:
Today we’re unveiling a new kind of Chrome App, which brings together the speed, security and flexibility of the modern web with the powerful functionality previously only available with software installed on your devices. (Think apps designed for your desktop or laptop, just like the ones for your phone and tablet.) These apps are more powerful than before, and can help you get work done, play games in full-screen and create cool content all from the web. If you’re using Windows or a Chromebook, you can check them out in the “For your desktop” collection in the Chrome Web Store (Mac & Linux coming soon).
I downloaded AutoDesk Pixlr Touch Up, and it worked flawlessly. The app opened independently of the browser, and worked with pictures I had saved in my Files App or Drive (which need to be marked for offline access) on the Chromebook Pixel, and allowed me to save pics to Files or Google Drive. I also tested it out on a Samsung ARM Chromebook, and it worked fine. The two Chromebooks are on Beta and Stable channels, respectively.
While the Chrome Blog notes a host of upgrades, one that stands out is the Chrome Apps launcher for Windows. After the update, once users install any new app, a launcher will be placed on their taskbar. Again, from the Chrome Blog:
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.
For the uninitiated, this is a near clone of what Chrome OS is. An apps launcher, replete with a search bar to find apps within that launcher. I won’t leave hyperbole alone on this one: Chrome is trying to take over your desktop. I’m not alone in this assertion, either.
In an Interview with The Verge, Chrome VP Brian Rakowski notes that the intent is to get these Chrome apps on every device. “We’re targeting the desktop as our first order of business because that’s where the majority of our users are. We want to nail that first. But our goal, eventually, is to get this to run everywhere that Chrome runs.” For the default browser on the largest mobile operating system on earth, that’s a necessary step in Chrome’s quest to be as omnipresent across platforms as possible.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though: this is day one. Desktop apps are important, and some will mock the smattering of apps available, but don’t overlook this one. This is not grist for the mill: desktop apps are a linchpin for Chrome, moving forward. From desktop to mobile, apps which operate independent of a web connection essentially give you the option of dual booting to an OS that was built on the foundation of the fastest, most secure browser around.
There are a lot of moving parts to this, and it’s a small step forward. There aren’t a lot of Desktop Apps, and what they can do is pretty rudimentary for now. Edit some photos, make a web page available offline — they’re nothing fancy.
Then again, five years ago today, Chrome was nothing fancy. Where will we be in five years’ time, this time around?
H/T to Jonathan and Eli