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At the same time that Google released the Chrome 8 browser, it also released its much-anticipated Chrome Web Store. The simultaneous release signals Google’s intention to change the “operating system and hard drive” mindset to one of “browser and cloud”.
Although it will deny it, this is the most direct stab at Microsoft’s business model that Google has ever taken. It may not be directly competing in the desktop arena as many had hoped for, but platform independence brought about by a browser-centered world would make Microsoft’s Windows/Office hegemony redundant.
Microsoft is not the only company that should feel threatened by the Google Chrome Web store. It’s also running in direct competition with Apple and its App store.
The Google Web Store is primarily focused on providing “applications” for Google Chrome OS which has just been made available to select beta testers. On the one hand, it’s an attempt to dispel the idea of a static web. On the other hand, Google is introducing a very new and difficult-to-digest concept for consumers; namely a web-only PC.
It’s hard to escape the initial impression that Google has made a mountain out of a molehill by effectively dressing up a bookmark as a “modern web application”. For example; the Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar applications are simply links to those respective sites.
There does appear to be more to it than that as certain applications such as the game Fancy Pants Adventure have a relatively large download and the game works offline. The other apps I tested simply gave the message “The app is currently unreachable”, when no connection was available.
The advantages of cloud applications are very relevant to the store. Firstly, a cloud application is lightweight, so the servers carry all the load and the browser simply serves the interface, which means you are free to use a desktop PC, tablet PC, netbook (with Chrome OS naturally) or even a smart-phone to run applications as heavy as those you currently only run on a Desktop PC.
The other advantage is cloud storage, which means you can use your desktop PC, tablet, netbook and smart-phone and access the same documents, emails and photos across all devices.
Chrome OS is obviously a very “on the move” targeted operating system and is not intended to replace any other operating system. This is exactly why Google opted for the name “Chrome Web Store” rather than “Chrome OS Web Store”. The applications work across all Chrome environments and in most cases beyond that in other browsers as well, however there are a handful of Chrome OS specific applications such as the Google Talk app.
The Web Store happily allows me to install the app but on running it, I was sternly informed that “it’s not designed for non-Chrome OS environments”.
On the whole, Google is dealing with a critical step in the evolution of the web and computing as a whole; which is getting consumer mindset to catch up with the technology available. Naturally this is not a mindset that Microsoft embraces, as its business is entrenched in the “legacy application” model. Time will tell who the big winners will be.