A beta version of Google’s Chrome Browser now supports Chrome App Launcher. This opens up the Chrome Store apps to Windows, Linux, and Mac OS desktops plus Google Android and Apple iOS mobile phones and tablets. Not to mention Google’s Chrome OS. Cross-platform is good, users say, because they increasingly recognize the utility of apps and their data across the devices in their lives.
Common apps running on a familiar user interface and operating system across a wide variety of hardware platforms is an idea that crops up frequently in the history of the computer industry. Unix and Windows NT come immediately to mind. Google is apparently bringing the cross-platform idea back into play.
The Chrome browser runs on Android, Windows, Linux, and Mac OS and has more recently appeared on iOS. Bookmarks, tabs, settings are synchronized in Google’s cloud including Drive storage, and available to any device at any time. Chrome apps add much more than typical browser extensions. They are real apps, albeit with cloud and local data. Docs, Sheets, and Slides are the functional equivalent of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in the Microsoft universe, and Pages, Numbers, and Keynote in the Apple Universe.
Chrome apps plus the already cross-platform Chrome browser give Google a wider breadth of platforms than the competition. As more data and usage is moved to the cloud (e.g., Office365), the benefits will become more apparent to cloud-migration users.
Perhaps my personal journey is illustrative. Like many professional users, I’ve followed Microsoft’s Office apps for generations. But over the past decade — Vista comes to mind — I started using a Mac. And I still have PCs. However, I never invested heavily in the Apple iWork office suite, using it for mostly Microsoft-compatible import and export or, lately, to make cross-platform .pdfs of finished documents or presentations. I have expertise and a software investment in Microsoft PC office apps and have no foreseeable intention to move to Microsoft Office 365.
Since more of my consumption and production is happening on tablets and even smartphones, I’m a good candidate to drop Apple iWork and move to Google apps. These appear on the Mac desktop and launch just like Mac apps. Or Windows apps.
Moreover, the mobile apps I use from the Chrome Store are all there too: WorkFlowy, TweetDeck, QuickBooks, and Evernote. It’s not just cloud office.
Let’s leave aside the issue of whether your data is secure in the cloud. That applies to all apps everywhere, and is worth pondering another day.
Being able to run a familiar, common set of apps across all the major hardware and OS platforms and time is a valuable competitive advantage.
I don’t see the technology industry yet recognizing that Google is quietly setting up to be the only supplier that can run the same apps on any broadly used platform.
Follow me on Twitter @peterskastner. Your comments are invited.