What about all us Windows, Mac, and Linux users? Well, now we can get in on the action, too, even though the Chrome Web Store loudly proclaims ** THIS APP REQUIRES A CHROME NOTEBOOK **!
Google has promoted three major Chrome features from the beta channel to the stable build. With the latest version of Chrome, all users can take advantage of WebGL, Chrome Instant and the Chrome Web Store.
WebGL brings hardware-accelerated 3D rendering to Chrome, making for some amazing graphics that could have gaming implications in the future. Right now, you can see it in action in several impressive demos. Chrome Instant will have a bigger immediate impact on users' day-to-day browsing. It loads your frequently-visited pages as you type into the address bar. No enter key required!
For folks who love extensions, themes and Web apps, the Chrome Web Store is the most important new feature. Now that the Web Store is open to all U.S. customers, Google has added a Web Store link and a couple of demo apps to the new tab page in the latest version of Chrome. They've also assured international users that the Web Store will be expanding to other countries soon.
As always, if you run Chrome, it will download the update automatically -- but you'll need to close and re-open it for the update to be applied.
The Chrome Web Store is finally here, and many of you probably have a handful of apps installed -- if for no other reason than a little eye candy on your new tab page. If you'd prefer a way to launch your apps that offers a bit more convenience and customization, check out the AppJump Launcher extension.
In addition to adding a handy drop-down panel from which you can launch your Chrome Apps, AppJump also allows you to create groups, which lets you categorize things for quick drill-down access -- which will be very useful once you've accumulated a few dozen apps.
One feature which is missing from AppJump is drag-to-reorder (which is also missing from the Chrome new tab page). I'd love to be able to move my apps around and sort them however I choose, but for right now you're stuck with whatever layout AppJump displays.
Harkening back to days of yore, it's You've Got News. Unlike the New York Times app Seb showed you, You've Got News is a locally installed app -- not a link to a remotely hosted Web site. The app actually feels a bit like reading the newspaper: use your left and right arrow keys to flip through the main sections and your up and down keys to peruse a section's individual pages. You can also click on background pages in the margins to bring them into focus.
Now that the Chrome Web Store has launched, we should have a better understanding of what these Apps are all about, right? Well, not so much. These aren't your typical apps, after all -- so it's still a little confusing. Let's take a look at what you're actually installing.
TweetDeck, the AIR-based desktop and smartphone twitter power app has finally joined its biggest competitor, Seesmic, on the Web. The new TweetDeck app for Google's fledgling Chrome Web Store brings the best of what people loved about the desktop AIR-app to the Web, in what Iain Dodsworth, CEO of TweetDeck calls: "definitely our best version of a desktop TweetDeck so far." The Chrome app supports TweetDeck accounts for syncing of read tweets, filters and search columns, and has support for almost everything social. Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, and even Google Buzz, are present and accounted for, with Gmail support on the way.
TweetDeck for Chrome is aiming to be faster and lighter than its AIR-based cousin, which is good news for anyone who's wanted to use TweetDeck on the desktop but has been put off by the relatively large footprint the AIR app takes. It's also currently silent, but TweetDeck is looking to implement a new 'social soundscape' across all its TweetDeck products in an effort to unify the notification system -- great for knowing what's happened without having to look at your screen.
The TweetDeck Chrome app can be found in the Chrome Web Store and installed directly into your up-to-date Chrome browser.
The rumors are true: Google's big Chrome event today was all about Chrome OS. As expected, Chrome OS is a "nothing but the web" operating system that runs entirely on web apps, with the Chrome browser at the center of the experience. Google walked through the whole Chrome OS user experience at the event, and it really looks like a solid choice for everyday users who just want to browse, share, work and play games on the web.
Setup for Chrome OS takes less than 60 seconds. In four steps, you can create a user account that already has access to your Google Apps data, and even carries over the themes, bookmarks and other settings from your existing Chrome browser. If you close the lid of your Chrome netbook and then open it again, your system and your internet connection resume faster than you can even type a Google Search.
In terms of sharing, each user's data on a Chrome OS machine is kept totally separate, so you can let your family make their own accounts (or let a friend use guest mode, which starts an Incognito session) and nobody will see anybody else's browsing history. Meanwhile, anything you do in Chrome on any of your computers will be synced to your account on the others. That means you can install an app or delete a theme on your Mac or PC, and it'll sync to your Chrome OS netbook in a few seconds.
Chromium's wrench menu now displays how many background Web apps are currently running in your browser (or browser-OS, if you're using Chrome OS). Clicking view background apps will bring the Chrome task manager into view, where the CPU, memory, and network utilized by your Background Apps and Extensions is displayed.
Chrome Web apps, of course, will be very similar to the extensions you can currently install from the Gallery. Similar enough, in fact, that many popular extensions will require only a minor tweak to their manifest files to "evolve" into apps. They'll have access to additional APIs and have different permission options, however, which will allow Chrome Web apps to go beyond current extension functionality.
Based on his discussions with developers who are building Web apps for Chrome, prevailing sentiment is that the Chrome Web Store will now open some time in early December. While some devs remain optimistic that a mid-November launch could still happen, Google has already missed launch targets -- casting severe doubts.
Interestingly, Kafka also mentions that some developers report receiving monetary "encouragement" directly from Google -- one individual acknowledged receive a $15,000 check. The Chrome Web Store remains enough of an enigma that these delays won't adversely affect it -- but we'd sure like to get a look at it.
Here's hoping the beta launch happens before the year is out.
Among the more recent additions is support for background apps, which have actually been part of the Chromium source code for a while now. Unlike the Chrome Apps you may have tried already (like those for Gmail, Docs, and Calendar), background apps can function continuously even though you don't have them open in a tab.
Recently, background app support was added to about:flags. In the current Chromium snapshots (and in the Chrome Dev Channel and Canary), enabling the feature now adds an additional option to your Under the Hood settings -- check the box to enable background apps and run them at startup. Google's choice of "system start" is a nod to Chrome OS, where background apps will likely be the equivalent of system tray apps on your current operating system.
... And don't get your hopes up about that learn more link. Currently, it points to a non-existent page, which isn't surprising considering the Web Store isn't open yet.