Google recently announced it’s Chrome App Launcher, and it has got me thinking about Native Windows Apps. I can’t really think of the last big app that was launched on the desktop that hasn’t been slowly migrating its way more effectively to the web. There are some pretty decent Audio/Photo/Video editors on the web (though some require Flash), and the latest craze is Web only IDE’s. Even the Unreal engine has been ported to Firefox, and now Google is embrace/extending Chrome with it’s App Launcher to be the next cross platform dream.
I don’t really think that Google will succeed with this, it’s just another of their throw it against the wall and see if it sticks (ala Chrome Frame and Google Gears and all the other ways that Google has tried to Chromize the default web experience) but it is interesting that Google is trying Microsoft’s embrace, extend, eliminate tactics from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. I see their Chrome Apps as akin to the old Internet Explorer ActiveX control that we all loved so much (with perhaps not as bad of a security model). Firefox extensions grew organically out of Greasemonkey and the extension model that Firefox originally built in. Chrome, however, developed its extension model on its own as it realized it needed extensions to compete with Firefox. The Chrome Apps extended from that as Chrome made it simple to package your URL as an application and make another way for promote the app in the Chrome Web Store. But if more applications are built this way, ChromeOS may start becoming real competition for microsoft. As I pointed out in Windows 8 is still killing Microsoft Chromebooks are becoming a real threat to windows and as Google continues to improve Chrome they will become more of a threat.
And I see Google’s using its dominance in other areas too: I switched to Gmail as my mail provider 6 months ago (mostly to see how good Google Now was), but I’ve noticed that a lot of Google’s competitors (or maybe in the case of Groupon, ex competitors as Google has shut down offers) end up in my Spam folder and no matter how often I mark it as not spam it always ends up there. Same with Chitika and Bing Ads some of their adword competitors. I don’t know if this is actually anti-competitive or accidental, I guess one should never ascribe malice what might be incompetence, however Google is good at so many other things. Or maybe Spam is just hard.
However in adlink spam, Google seems to be much less proactive. Currently, if you Google for Skype, an ad appears for a download site I will not mention or provide a link to (no need to improve their rankings) that wraps the Skype download in a metric butload of Malware. 4 toolbars, and a bunch of programs that spy on you requiring a fair amount of work to de-infest the machine that it installed on. Google happily takes their money and it gives both Skype and Windows a terrible reputation, which, is good for google. The fact that when you google many common freeware applications the first site that shows up in Download.com (once again I won’t link) is another disservice to Windows users as Download.com basically wraps every download they have in 10 kinds of malware. Google not blocking download sites that wreck the windows experience might be good for Google Chrome but it is probably not good for google as the first thing much of this Malware does is switch your default search engine to yahoo or somewhere even worse. So once again, this may be malice, or just that the google ranking algorithm doesn’t yet take malware from downloaded software into account.
And then there is Google’s refusal to port of any of their App’s to Windows Phone. Or that is more likely a matter of market share, not the fact that Microsoft hired one of the slimiest humans in the world to create anti Google propaganda.
Will Google be responsible for the end of the Windows Desktop? Or will it be a self inflicted wound? Or will Microsoft recover its mojo with a new CEO. Only time will tell, dear reader, only time will tell.