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InfoQ Homepage News Google Announces Chrome Apps Improved Offline Capabilities & Mac Support

Google Announces Chrome Apps Improved Offline Capabilities & Mac Support

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Google is making a big push with its Chrome Apps recently, touting new capabilities and this week announcing Mac support to supplement the Windows support announced in September.

Chrome Apps essentially turn the Chrome Browser into an operating system that runs applications that behave similar to native applications but are written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. These applications run within a Chrome shell that provides API’s that allow the application to access hardware and operating system functionality typically unavailable to web applications.

In theory, Chrome Apps offer web developers the capability to build desktop applications that run cross-platform using web technologies. While Adobe had similar functionality for years with AIR, it required the installation of a separate runtime while Chrome already boasts a significant install base across platforms.

Renewed Emphasis

While the initiative for Chrome-based applications, formerly called Chrome Packaged Apps, has been around for some time, even outside of Chrome OS. While enjoying some success, packaged apps had limitations at the time, not the least of which was that they still had to be launched from within the Chrome Browser and ran within a very restrictive security sandbox.

Recently, Google appears to be placing a heavier emphasis on them. Back in September they were re-launched and rebranded as Chrome Apps announcing new capabilities including offline support, less browser chrome, and cloud capabilities among others. They also launched a new Chrome App Launcher to simplify finding and opening your installed Chrome Apps. At the time, however, Chrome Apps were supported only on Windows.

This week, Google announced support for Chrome Apps and the Chrome App Launcher on Mac. In addition, Google’s Joe Marini spoke at a Chrome Developer Summit emphasizing Chrome Apps intelligent offline capabilities, additional platform support including Linux, iOS and Android and that Chrome Apps’ built-in cloud sync.

Mobile support is currently being built using Apache Cordova to allow Chrome Apps to be released in device marketplaces like the iOS App Store and Google Play. Apache Cordova is the open-source version of Adobe PhoneGap. Marini said that they expect a beta of this functionality in early January. He also discussed a number of important API’s announced back in February including things like identity, in-app payments, analytics and bluetooth.

Where Are The Chrome Apps?

It remains to be seen whether web developers and companies adopt Chrome Apps for desktop development. There are other frameworks competing in this same space including node-webkit, which has garnered some attention recently. Nonetheless, along with the announcements, Google promoted some higher profile Chrome Apps such as the image editor Pixlr Touch Up and even released a new Chrome Apps version of Google Sheets, their Google Drive spreadsheet application, that now supports working offline.

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