I/O starts two weeks from today, and Google wastes no time whetting developer interests. Yesterday, the search and information giant revealed new Google+ Sign-In benefits. Today there are changes regarding "packaged apps". Surely the big stuff will wait for the keynote, which takes place on a single day this year, but expect more like last two days beforehand.
"Starting today Chrome packaged apps will be available in the Chrome Web Store for anyone on Chrome's developer channel on Windows and Chrome OS", Amanda Bishop, Google product manager, says. "You will notice that the App category now contains only the new Chrome packaged apps. A new category, called Websites, contains all existing hosted apps and legacy packaged apps". She tempts me to change Chrome channels, but I'll wait. And you?
Packaged apps are what make Chrome a viable platform alternative, whether usurping operating systems like Windows or running on Google's browser-based Linux. Unlike other Web apps, packaged ones are capable of running just fine offline. Third-party packaged app 500px, designed with Chromebook Pixel in mind, is good example of what can be accomplished. Weather Bug is another.
In May 2011, I called Google's browser and operating system the ghost of Netscape that haunts Microsoft: "Enter Chrome or Chrome OS as platform for web apps connected to Google cloud product/services like Apps, Calendar and Gmail". Like Netscape, Google seeks to make the browser, running on whatever OS, its own development platform. Web apps are start. Packaged apps are better, running in Chrome on or offline.
Google still has a long way to go. For April, Net Applications puts Chrome global browser usage share at 16.35 percent -- that's four months of consecutive declines and down from 19.58 percent in May 2012. Internet Explorer: 55.81 percent. To clarify, contrary to NetApps statements, its numbers measure usage share, not market share. The difference is significant because people may use multiple browsers.
"If you’ve written a packaged app, or are working on one, now is a great time to get some early feedback and polish your app before Chrome packaged apps become more broadly available", Bishop says.
They won't stay in the developer channel forever. Chrome 26 is stable, 27 beta and 28 developer. Someone correct me if I'm mistaken, but if you move up channel you can't easily go back until the next stable release. Conceptually then, packaged apps are just two versions from public release. Chrome 27 could drop any day, based on recent releases, unless Google holds back for its developer conference.
There are currently three packaged app sessions planned for Google I/O 2013, one the first day and two on the third.