Will Google Help Developers Port Chrome Apps to iOS and Android?

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 05, 2013

It was back in September that the Google Chrome team put an extensive post up heralding "packaged apps" that work with Chrome, which the team obviously felt could become a huge differentiator for Google's browser.  "These apps are more powerful than before, and can help you get work done, play games in full-screen and create cool content all from the web," wrote the Chrome team. Since then, if you're a Chrome user, you may have tried some of these apps and experienced how they make the browser feel almost like an operating system underlying applications.

Now, there are lots of reports coming out that claim that Google plans to help developers port Chrome apps to other operating systems, ranging from Apple's iOS to Android. Some of the reports say we'll see the basic architecture of this concept arrive in January. 

According to The Next Web:

"Google is working on bringing Chrome packaged apps from the desktop to the mobile world. The company is currently building a toolkit to help developers create Chrome apps for Android and iOS, as well as port their existing Chrome apps to both mobile platforms. The news comes by means of a GitHub repository we stumbled on called Mobile Chrome Apps led by Michal Mocny, a Software Developer at Google."

Unlike Android apps, Chrome apps are built around web standards, so enabling Chrome apps to straddle operating systems will require some technical gymnastics. ReadWriteWeb reports that "Google is apparently using Apache Cordova—the open source core of PhoneGap—to perform the task."

That may or may not be the case, but there is no reason to doubt that Google would like to pull this feat off. 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. It might make many of them more friendly to Android.

You can get a sense of how the Chrome team is doing deep thinking about the plumbing of packaged apps in this post.  Just as extensions were part of how the Firefox browser grew its audience over the case of many years, packaged apps can become differentiators for Chrome, and, apparently, they could do double duty across operating systems.