Chrome App Launcher arrives on Windows, offers glimpse at Google's bigger plan

By on July 19, 2013, 12:15 PM

Google has quietly launched its Chrome App Launcher for Windows. Originally built for Chrome OS in an effort to replicate some of the taskbar or dock functionality in traditional desktop operating systems, the software acts as a hub for all your Chrome apps, allowing users to launch them quickly from the desktop.

The release covers both Windows 7 and Windows 8 operating systems, though support for OS X is in the works. The launcher will sit on your desktop taskbar and provide a quick way to access the Chrome Store, and any installed app that works with Google's browser. It also lets you manage certain privacy, network, language and download settings, and supports switching between multiple Google accounts -- so when you are signed in, Gmail will directly load your inbox, Drive will show your saved documents and files, and so on.

At first glance the App Launcher is nothing more than a collection of links that load on your browser. But with the introduction of packaged apps and desktop notifications, Google is slowly building something that could be seen as a more serious threat to established desktop platforms.

If you are unfamiliar with packaged apps, they’re essentially apps written in standard web languages, but they run outside of the browser as self contained software that can work offline and interface with hardware or network devices. Combined with desktop notifications, they look and act like any other normal app, except they are cross-platform compatible and always up to date. Two recent high-profile examples are Pocket and Wunderlist.

If packaged apps actually catch on with developers, Google’s App Launcher will go a long way easing the transition from native Windows or Mac apps to web-based Chrome apps, and perhaps convincing some users that it’s possible to live with a web-centric platform like Chrome OS. Time will tell if the strategy plays out.

For now, if you want to give the Chrome App Launcher a try, I suggest you also install a few packaged apps with it. You can find all of them under the packaged apps category in the Chrome Web Store. Aside from the two aforementioned ones, other notable examples include Reditr, 500px, Text, and Spelunkly.

User Comments: 8

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psycros psycros said:

I have no problem with packaged apps so long as their not dependent upon being connected. If they do then what's the point? Of course a native application is nearly always superior to the web version anyway. All we're getting from these developers is a continual cheapening of their products, literally and figuratively. We get less speed and features while the industry attempts to move us all to subscriptions.

Jos Jos said:

@psycros they do work offline, according to Google. Though it's true that for now some of them might be limited next to their native counterparts.

1 person liked this | coppersloane coppersloane said:

Now if Google can devote themselves to supporting their applications instead of being so prone to scrapping things.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Microsoft had their version of package apps in Works for Windows prior to Office for Windows. Works was limited but still functional. Prior to that was Wizard Works PFS Windows Works all package apps.

JC713 JC713 said:

Good to see some progress on the Chrome front. It has been the same forever.

Guest said:

Web centric is bull shhhh... first they will get all your information online and then they will control your life and share your personal information with the NSA. It's a trap! just like Microsofts office starter ;)

Guest said:

Google will not do that to there customers, they are already saying there not going to do that, when Prism was brought up they said Google was one of the company's that will track your information and spy on you, that is not true. Google has already said there not going to that, they even spoke about it at there Google I/O 2013.

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