Google Means to Take Chrome Apps to Every Major Platform

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 03, 2014

Google's announcement last week of a tool for building Chrome apps that can run on Android and Apple's iOS mobile platform could have much more far reaching implications than many observers realize. The new development toolkit from Google is based on Apache Cordova and lets developers build native Chrome apps for Android and iOS using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. "The toolchain wraps your Chrome App with a native application shell and enables you to distribute your app via Google Play and the Apple App Store," notes a post from Google. "We provide a simple developer workflow for packaging a Chrome App natively for mobile platforms."

What many observers are missing is that in conjunction with the toolkit, Google has made many of the core Chrome APIs available to Chrome Apps running natively on mobile, including:

  • identity - sign-in users using OAuth2 without prompting for passwords
  • payments - sell virtual goods within your mobile app
  • pushMessaging - push messages to your app from your server
  • sockets - send and receive data over the network using TCP and UDP
  • notifications (currently Android only) - send rich notifications from your mobile app
  • storage - store and retrieve key-value data locally
  • syncFileSystem - store and retrieve files backed by Google Drive
  • alarms - run tasks periodically

In addition to the above Chrome APIs, developers can access a wide range of APIs supported in the Cordova platform.

A post on CiteWorld does a good job of summarizing why all of this is important in terms of plugging holes that exist in Google Chrome OS platform.  According to the post, the toolkit is "...a next logical step for Google, which created the packaged apps last May for its Chrome OS as a way to offset the browser-based operating system's limitations such as lack of local storage and inability to function offline."

In effect, this development toolkit represents a path that Google can follow to deliver Chrome apps on every major platform, including Windows, Mac OS X, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS. Google made this clear in the announcement post: "For web developers, this toolchain provides a simple workflow for extending the reach of Chrome Apps to users on mobile platforms."

Attracting app developers is everything on mobile platforms, but Apple has done an insanely good job of making it most lucrative for developers to build apps for iOS. If Google can help usher in a world of easy app development for "hybrid apps" that can work across operating systems, that could enable developers to reach larger audiences.  In all likelihood, the next step for Google will be to offer incentives for developers to build apps that can work across platforms.