Chrome Web Store Applies iPhone, Android App Store Model to Web Apps

Google introduced its Chrome Web Store May 19 at Google I/O, borrowing from the easy to browse, use and buy concept of mobile phone application stores such as Apple's App Store and the Google Android Market. Analysts say this concept could work given the difficulty in discovering Web applications on the Internet. Until Google decides to discuss the Web Store more, there will be many unanswered questions, including how Chrome Web Store will work with Chrome OS.

Little is known yet about Google's Chrome Web Store, but the move takes a page straight out of the playbook of today's successful mobile application stores, including Apple's iPhone App Store and Google's own Android Market.

Unveiled May 19 at Google I/O, Chrome Web Store is an application gallery meant to make it easier for users to browse and download thousands of free and paid Web apps.

The store will enable the roughly 70 million users of the Google Chrome Web browser to not only find Web apps, but create shortcuts in the Google Chrome Web browser to access them easier.

"Discovery of available apps is a problem for the average consumer," IDC analyst Al Hilwa told eWEEK May 20. "I am surprised there still no app store for Windows PCs."

Hilwa added the concept of an app store has proven to be a boon for the discovery of solutions on any particular platform and is a concept that deserves to be emulated, so "I can hardly blame Google for using it."

Google anticipates many free apps for the Web Store, which, similar to a mobile apps store, boasts ratings and reviews.

Developers who submit apps for sale in the Web Store will receive 70 percent of the revenues, with the remainder going to Google. This matches the model for the Android Market. App prices will average $2.99 to $3.99, which is in the ballpark of the Android Market.

Moreover, the applications for Chrome Web Store Sundar Pichai, the director of product management for Google, demoed on stage at Google I/O were the kind of gaming applications people are used to playing on their iPhone and Android smartphones. MugTug's Dark Room, for example, is popular on the iPhone.

With so many similarities to the Android Market, which in turn borrowed some of the notions of Apple's App Store, it's hard not to see the parallels between Chrome Web Store and today's mobile app stores.

"I think they're starting to head in that direction, but there are other aspects to the App Store," Gartner analyst Ray Valdes told eWEEK May 20.

"The Apple App Store is a familiar interface, people have been using it with iPods. They're used to buying stuff off of it and they have 100 million credit cards on file. These are things that are hard for anyone to replicate, though Google certainly has a leg up on it over some others. But it's got a long ways to go to be a complete challenger."

Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond said Chrome Web Store could work given the success of the App Store and Steam, which sells games online.

One of the interesting twists, Hammond noted, was that Google is allowing different Web technologies for the apps created for the store. He added:

"Google will take a technology neutral approach the to the apps that are submitted. They can be HTML 5, or Flash, or anything that will run in the Chrome browser, or perhaps in other browsers as well. The Chrome apps store appears to be less about control and more about connection - and to some developers that will make all the difference in the world."

Pichai said Chrome Web Store will initially launch with support for Chrome and Chrome Operating System only, adding that Google will discuss the ins and outs for the Web Store later this year.

Until Google decides to discuss the Web Store more, there will be many unanswered questions, including how Chrome Web Store will work with Chrome OS, the underlying operating system on top of which the Chrome browser will sit.