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New offline Chrome Apps offer a near-native desktop experience in your browser

Melissa Riofrio | Sept. 6, 2013
Watch out, traditional software: The new Chrome apps can work offline and store locally, and they cross platforms with ease.

No software platform can grow without developers to feed it. According to Google's Kay, developers were getting as antsy as users were about the limitations of Chrome's earlier apps. "They [developers] wanted to have a richer desktop app, be able to run in the background or talk to some special hardware, things that were off-limits to them," said Kay.

Google's efforts to woo developers to the new app technology also involved a lot of education. Moving from a browser-like app to a native-like app pushed some developers into uncharted territory, recalls Kay. "Because we're giving access to more powerful and dangerous APIs, we put up more security barriers for developers. In some cases it meant to change some code they had written. Depending on the developer and the code, some of that rewriting was more extensive."

Developers get cross-platform portability
The payoff for developers is the ability to write one app for multiple platforms. When we looked at UberConference, an early packaged app, UberConference executive Brian Peterson told PCWorld that packaged apps save his company money and time. "If we were to do native apps for each platform, we'd have to hire or train new devs for each," Peterson said.

The new Chrome Apps offer significant benefits to both end users and developers. Could Chrome's recognition as a bona fide hardware and software platform be far behind? Brian Blau, an analyst for Gartner, thinks so. "If they can take Chrome and the related Chrome OS and make that a more formal tech platform, then they've helped people transfer from a traditional PC."

According to Al Hilwa, an analyst for IDC, the development of Chrome Apps was essential for Google to remain in the app game. "On it rests the future of Chrome OS and Google's interest to make the Web platform viable for the most complex and sophisticated apps."

Check it out for yourself at the Chrome Web Store. This early round of Chrome Apps is for Windows and Chrome users on Chrome 29. Mac users will be supported in the next version of the browser, Chrome 30.

 

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