Chromebooks have lowered the price of admission for owning a laptop. Though many Chromebook owners are content to funnel all of their personal computing through a web browser, not everyone wants to sacrifice the native apps that platforms like Windows and Mac OS X can provide. The Chrome OS platform, however, just took another step forward in becoming a viable desktop alternative, with the addition of new browser apps that, well, no longer look the part.
Today Google announced the arrival of "For Your Desktop" apps for Chrome. On the back-end, they're still, more or less, the same browser-based apps Chrome has had all along. But on the user end, they look and behave like native desktop (or perhaps tablet?) apps. They run offline, and they run full-screen. They ditch all of the browser trimmings (toolbar, navigation buttons, URL bar) that just won't let you forget you're on the web. They can even deliver notifications just like a desktop app.
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Google is also launching a Chrome App Launcher for Windows, a taskbar-based control center that makes the same desktop-ish apps fit in a bit more seamlessly on Microsoft's OS. The apps you start from the Launcher all launch in their own windows. There's even a search box in case things get too crowded. It has more than a few things in common with the old Start Menu that so many Windows 8 users are left pining for.
As promising as Google's more desktop-like Chrome apps are, let's not get ahead of ourselves. There aren't a ton of compatible apps at the moment, and there are still barriers preventing Chromebooks from functioning like a Windows PC or a MacBook (hardcore gaming, Microsoft Office, iTunes, and Photoshop all come to mind). So this isn't necessarily going to make that US$1,300 Chromebook Pixel purchase much easier to justify.
But looking long-term? After developers have had time to tailor more of their Chrome apps to look and feel like desktop apps? This could be just the boost Chromebooks needed to start eating into the major desktop operating system's territory. That is, if smartphones and tablets don't clean their clocks first.
Chrome "For Your Desktop" apps are available now for Chromebooks and Windows, and will be coming later to Mac OS X and Linux. You can read more, and get the full list of compatible apps, at the source link below.
Source: Chrome BlogView gallery - 4 images