Google's Chrome browser, in its five years of existence, has blossomed into one of the cornerstones of the company's online empire, boasting its own stable of Chrome Apps for the browser and even forming the foundation of Chrome OS, Google's netbook operating system.
Now, the company announced in an offical blog post, Chrome's influence is expanding onto the PC proper – with the debut of a local front-end for a new set of apps designed for use both online and off. Google fights to kill email-scanning lawsuit brought by Gmail users]
The new “for the desktop” suite of Chrome apps – which is currently only available on Windows PCs, though it's also headed to Mac and Linux – works sort of like a smartphone app tray. When one of the apps is installed, Chrome creates a small grid icon on the taskbar, which, when clicked, displays Chrome apps installed locally.
The initial offerings are limited to several apps across three main categories – content tools like 500px, Booktrack and Pocket, productivity programs like UberConference and Wunderlist, and games like Rad Soldiers and the infamously addictive Cut the Rope.
The launch appears aimed more at highlighting the possibilities of the platform, rather than building a user base. Unlike regular Chrome Apps, the desktop apps look to be designed around Chrome as a content delivery and updating system, allowing for offline use and more robust access to PC hardware. Google advertises that the apps will stay synched across any desktop device that a given user signs into, and documents can be stored both locally and in Google Drive.
It seems unlikely to replace either fully-fledged desktop apps or well-used web apps in the short-term – everything still uses the Chrome browser to function, and, given that many are essentially local front-ends for web-dependent content, the ability to use them offline is arguably not all that useful. Nevertheless, it still represents yet another way for Google to bring users into its overall ecosystem of services.
Email Jon Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.