Thanks in large part to the raging success of the Apple App Store, application marketplaces are an integral part of every mobile platform these days. But an app store announced by Google Wednesday at its annual developer conference adds a new twist to the model. Launching later this year, Google's Chrome Web Store will offer up online applications through its browser and forthcoming operating system.
"We believe it should be easier for users to discover Web apps and for developers to reach a large audience," said Erik Kay, lead software engineer at Google, on the company's Chromium Blog.
Mobile app stores -- like Google's own Android App Market -- make it easier to search for a chess game on your phone than it is on the Web via your PC, pointed out Sundar Pichai, VP for product management at Google, at the conference. "It should be easy to create and sell a premium application on the Web," he said, according to the New York Times.
If the Chrome browser continues to gain in popularity -- which seems likely, given that its market share is now close to 7 percent and climbing quickly -- Google's new store could offer Web developers with a valuable outlet, and bring new levels of convenience to users.
The Web store will also be open, unlike the much-criticized closed environment offered up by Apple for the iPad and iPhone. Chrome users will be able to find, download and access Web apps through their browser (Google will provide a payment system), but they will also be able to run in other browsers.
On the future site of the Chrome Web Store, Google notes that the applications listed in the marketplace "are regular Web applications that are built with standard Web tools and technologies" and can be used by any other browsers that support the technology.
"The Web is the most important platform of our generation," said Vic Gundotra, Google's VP of engineering at the conference. "Because it's a platform controlled by none of us, it's the only platform truly controlled by all of us. It's our duty to move that platform forward."
Pichai also noted that Chrome Web apps can be built on "standard Web technologies like Flash." Take that, Apple.
On the enterprise side, the search giant introduced Google App Engine for Business at the I/O conference. Currently available in beta, Google says the service adds enterprise-friendly features to its platform for designing Web apps, including centralized administration, a 99.9 percent uptime SLA and heightened security. Pricing for each application is $8 per user per month, with a cap of $1,000 per month.
In what proved to be (unsurprisingly) a busy day for Google, it also unveiled a partnership with VMware that the companies say is designed to help do something to prevent cloud lock-in. Whether they use VMware's SpringSource Tool Suite or the Google Web Toolkit, developers will be able to deploy their applications to Google App Engine for Business, a VMware environment, or even another platform -- like Amazon EC2.
"It's clear that cloud applications will be accessed by a diverse set of devices ... desktops, laptops, mobile phones, iPads, and more to come," said VMware CTO Steve Herrod on the company's blog. "It's a big challenge for developers to customize their code for the specific browsers, technologies, and screen sizes on these different devices." The integration of Spring and Google's development tools, he added, "takes us a major step forward in helping developers write their applications once, but enabling a rich user experience on the multitude of devices that may access it."