Google announces web app store for Chrome browser

Google will open an application store for its Chrome internet browser later this year allowing developers to provide both free and paid apps to users, the company announced at its Google I/O conference overnight.

The company also announced that the long-awaited Google Wave portal would now be openly available, with analysts expecting the launch of a Google TV product sometime tomorrow.

But the announcements come on a sour note, with the company set to be investigated by the Australian Privacy Commissioner for accidentally accessing private WiFi networks while taking pictures for its Street View maps app.

Google announced its Chrome Web Store at the conference yesterday, marketing it as a type of app store for the internet browser itself. It expects the app store to be extremely popular, it said, with over 70 million users now browsing through Chrome.

Vice president of products, Sundar Pichair, announced the store in his keynote address, saying developers will be able to make more money from their products by opening them up to an entirely new audience.

“Google Chrome users who find web apps in the store will be able to create convenient shortcuts in Chrome for easy access. Also, developers will have the option to easily sell their apps through the store using a convenient and secure payment system,” the company said on its blog.

Users simply have to login to their Google account to access the store, and then can buy whatever they want. The company showed off some examples, including games, utilities and even Twitter clients, all running within the Chrome browser itself.

One of the showcased apps was MugTug, a type of picture editor similar to Photoshop or Picasa, which is set to cost $4.99. But like other popular app stores, several publications are expected to bring their content to the web, including Sports Illustrated which showed off its own web-based app.

These apps aren’t separate pieces of software – they are designed to fit and run within the Chrome browser, without needing access to any other program. Users can also use the apps on a different browser, such as Firefox, but they must be purchased first within Chrome.

“When Google Chrome users “install” a web application from the store, a convenient shortcut is added for quickly accessing the app,” the company confirmed on its website. “We will invite developers to start adding their web apps later this year before the Chrome Web Store opens.”

If developers want to find out more, they can check out some preliminary documentation and join the developer discussion group.

The opening of the store is an attempt to converge different types of apps. While many users are already used to apps on Google Android-based smartphones, and even desktops, the company said it wants to bring apps to an entirely new platform and help integrate the new formats.

Meanwhile, the company also announced its Google Wave platform will now be open for all users. While the company has operated the Wave portal in an invitation-only basis for the past year, now anyone with a Google account can take part.

Google Wave has been described by the company as the next step for traditional email. Users can edit documents in real time, share pictures, text and any type of file in a type of “conversation”.

The company said last year this would open up the traditional two-way email conversation into a more discussion-based model with two or more participants, like a conference.

Google is also expected to make some key announcements at the I/O conference over the next few days, with over 5,000 people attending to hear 200 speakers. Other new features from the company include the Google App Engine for business, new cloud-computing options and web media formats.

Analysts have said the company may even announce the launch of Google TV, a type of set-top box that will allow users to browse the internet and video sites, such as YouTube, through a traditional television set.

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