Google on Tuesday launched its Google Web Store, a marketplace for apps that run on Google's upcoming Chrome OS. For the uninitiated, Chrome OS is a Web-based operating system designed for portable computers. A laptop running Chrome OS is basically using a Chrome Web browser as the main software interface. Apps such as, say, a word processor are run over the Internet through the Web browser.
The Google Web Store is where you get new apps to run in Chrome OS. The apps can also run on the Mac using the Chrome Web browser.
If you've used Apple's App Store, then navigating the Google Web Store will be familiar; it's a lot like the App Store in iTunes.
Once you buy an app (many apps are free, while some are pay-for), it appears on an Apps page in the Chrome browser. The Apps page looks similar to the Launchpad interface previewed during the Mac OS X 10.7 Lion announcement last October.
One quirk I had in my short time using the Google Web Store and the Chrome apps is that I couldn't immediately figure out how to set the Apps page to be my default page when I launch Chrome. However, Chrome does default to the Apps page when you open a new tab or window. To set the Apps page to be the default page upon launch, set Chrome's Home page to Use the New Tab Page, and set Chrome to Open the Home Page on startup.
The Chrome apps are Web-based. When you click to launch an app on the App page, you're essentially clicking a link that takes you to the app's Website. For example, the Sketchpad Chrome app takes you to http://mugtug.com/sketchpad/. Many of these sites doesn't necessarily require the Chrome app, but some, such as Sports Illustrated Snapshot, require the use of Chrome (if you go to http://www.sportsillustratedsnapshot.com in Safari, you are redirected to the Sports Illustrated Snapshot page in the Google Web Store).
Why use the Chrome apps if they're basically graphical representations of bookmarks? The apps serve as an UI option; they're a slightly more efficient way to get to a Web-based application.
The Google Web Store is also a place where you can get extensions for Chrome. Extensions can add more functionality to a Web browser. For example, I wrote this article using the Write Space extension, which lets you use a basic text editor within Chrome (it doesn't require Internet access).
All the Chrome apps I tried ran smoothly and without a hitch. According to reports of the Google Web Store launch, there are about 500 apps available.
As I mentioned earlier, the Google Web Store and Chrome apps are really for the Chrome OS, and Chrome OS laptops are due next year. Should Mac users even bother with Chrome and the Google Web Store? If you have no desire to switch to a cloud-based workflow, then the Chrome apps are probably of no interest of you.
However, if you have a Mac laptop with flash-storage that's too small to store what you want, cloud-based software and file storage is unavoidable. Or, perhaps you're thinking about depending on the cloud for your whole workflow. Then Chrome and its app integration could be a way for you to ease into the cloud--though you can also just use the browser of your choice and bookmarks of your needed Web software.
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