Google yesterday said it would let developers of Chrome packaged apps issue free trials and offer in-app purchases, and allow creators of browser extensions to charge for their wares for the first time.
The moves were described by Google as additional ways for developers to monetize their work building apps and add-ons for Chrome (the browser) and Chrome OS, the lightweight operating system that powers cheap Chromebook notebooks.
Developers of traditional Web apps -- Google calls them "hosted apps" -- have long been able to offer their work for a flat fee or as a subscription, and have been allowed to put time-limited trials of their apps in the Chrome Web Store, Google's official distribution market for Chrome and Chrome OS.
The latest changes let creators of "packaged apps" add free trials to their offerings; previously, they could only ask for an up-front fee or charge for a subscription, essentially making the customer pay for something sight-unseen. Packaged app developers can also now offer in-app payments, the revenue model that now dominates mobile apps, most of which are free to download and use, but tempt users into ponying up for additional features, or in games, tools or points necessary to progress through more advanced levels.
Packaged apps are ueber-Web apps that are much closer to "native" software -- the kind written for a specific operating system, say Windows -- that can run without a constant Internet connection and call on several Google APIs and services barred to Web apps.
Add-on developers also have all four options -- free trial, paid, subscription and in-app payments -- for the first time. Before, extension makers could only give away their work.
The new monetization methods give developers more of the pricing choices they have available to them when they place their work in the powerhouse app marts, Google Play for Android and App Store for Apple's iPhone and iPad.
At the same time, Google has been slowly tightening restrictions on Chrome add-ons, which now must be published to the Chrome Web Store.
On the latter, Google has met with resistance from Chrome users, who have complained that the Mountain View, Calif. company has limited their freedom to install what they want.
The two parallel efforts signal that Google is determined to provide a developer-friendly, locked-down e-market for Chrome and Chrome OS, to both stock the store with more software and assure customers that what's there has gotten at least a cursory vetting by Google. In turn, they illustrate Google's push to create an ecosystem based on their browser and browser-based platforms, to both subvert rival operating systems and make Chrome OS more attractive to potential Chromebook buyers.
More information on the new monetization methods can be found via links Google used in this blog yesterday.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is [email protected].
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