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Google all set to invade Windows land

Google Chrome is celebrating its 5th anniversary and it is going to send an army of Chrome apps to invade the Windows land.

Be platform agnostic
Google knows the game better than Microsoft – it’s not about what you run at the base, it’s all about apps and services. Google products and services are platform agnostic (an exception being Google Drive which is still not available for GNULinux), they can be run on Windows, Mac or GNULinux. Whereas Microsoft plays it in a totally different direction – the company offers services to keep users locked into its two core cash cows – Windows and Office.

The good news is (why it’s good I will tell later) Microsoft is losing share in the markets it once used to dominate – browser, emailing, as well as Windows OS (the PC shipment has been overtaken by the mobile devices which either run Android or iOS). The way LibreOffice is getting commercial support, Apple is integrating its own iWorks and Google pushing for Docs, soon Office may also start to see a decline.

Microsoft is trying to stay relevant via its Office 365 but its paid nature makes it less appealing than the free alternatives.

Now why it’s good news is simple – Microsoft doesn’t respect standards. And if and when it does – its only to embrace, extent and extinguish and make such standards irreverent – just look at ODF and controvercial OOXML. So the decline of Microsoft would mean strengthening of Open Standards, which also break the vendor lock.

Google, so far, seems to be committed to open standards so it’s rise could be good news for open standard (one exception is ODF – Google doesn’t offer support for ODF across its products and services).

The desktop invasion
The desktop has remained Microsoft’s dominant platform. While Canonical tried to create an alternative with Ubuntu it has not succeeded so far and has sort of admitted its defeat and is now looking at mobile platform.

However where Canonical has given up, Google sees new potential. Google is slowly but steadily increasing its offline presence. Celebrating its fifth anniversary of Chrome the company is releasing new kind of Chrome apps. Eric Kay of Google says that this app “brings together the speed, security and flexibility of the modern web with the powerful functionality previously only available with software installed on your devices.”

These apps are similar to the ones that you see on your mobile devices. Kay says, “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. If you’re using Windows or a Chromebook, you can check them out in the “For your desktop” collection in the Chrome Web Store (Mac & Linux coming soon).”

One of the core features of these apps is the ability to work offline when there is no internet. These apps can sync the data across devices so users will be able to work on the same files irrespective of which device they are using. Yes you do need Internet for syncing.

Unlike most desktop apps these apps will get automatic updates, just like the Chrome browser so users will always be running the latest and most secure versions of the apps.

While both Microsoft and Apple are pushing their own cloud service (on Mac it can be quite annoying to see iCloud being the default storage location across Apple apps), Chrome apps will offer the capability to save data on Google drive as well as other web services and local hard drive.

Simplicity
These apps remove the UI from between the user and the experience. They work more of less in full screen mode which means no tabs, buttons or text boxes to distract a user.

Google has mastered the art of notification on its Android platform, it’s bringing the same feature to these apps. Kay says,”With desktop notifications, you can get reminders, updates and even take action, right from the notification center.”

Desktop apps will be able to interact with the devices connected to your PC via USB, Bluetooth or other means – including the connected digital cameras.

Desktop integration
Google is also launching a Chrome App Launcher for Windows which will make it easier for users to fire up the apps right from their desktops.

But aren’t these apps just links to websites that open in the Chrome browser? Not really. The Chrome App Launcher will reside on the task-bar and will launch apps in their own windows, outside of Chrome – just the way any other desktop app works. It will also integrate a search option so that users can quickly find and launch the needed apps if they installed quite a lot of apps and don’t want to get lost in the labyrinth of apps.

These apps cover most of what we need on an average basis – including office suit, text editor or image editing. You can check out the section from your Windows PC or Chromebooks.

Year of GNULinux?
Google’s strategy is smart. It’s the apps that we use and not the base OS. So if users get used to these apps, it won’t matter which OS they run. You can very easily pull the OS from underneath and continue to run the apps you use.

Windows will soon become irrelevant.

The arrival of ‘For your Desktop’ apps is good news for the growth of GNULinux. If GNULinux users can do what Windows or Mac users can do it will be easier for users to migrate away from Windows. Google has already made GNULinux a leading player in the mobile space and living room. With Chrome OS its going for desktop invasion. Google can be ‘the’ hope for desktop Linux.

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What do you think of this Google move? What kind of apps would you like to see?

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Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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