Google to Expand Chrome Apps for Mobile by Using Apache Cordova

A preview version is now available to help developers build the first Chrome Apps for mobile users; the features were introduced for desktops in 2013.

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Google is continuing to drive the development of its Chrome Apps concept by introducing the first beta preview tools to help developers build Chrome Apps for mobile users.

So far, Chrome Apps, which run separately from the Chrome browser as offline applications and don't rely on having always-on access to a network connection, are only available for use by desktop users.

That will change in the future now that a developer tool chain based on Apache Cordova, an open-source mobile development framework for building native mobile apps using HTML, CSS and JavaScript, is being distributed, wrote Andrew Grieve, a Google software engineer, in a Jan. 28 post on The Chromium Blog.

"The tool chain wraps your Chrome App with a native application shell and enables you to distribute your app via Google Play and the Apple App Store," wrote Grieve. "We provide a simple developer workflow for packaging a Chrome App natively for mobile platforms. You can run your Chrome App on a device or emulator using the command-line or an [integrated development environment]. Alternatively, you can use the Chrome Apps Developer Tool to run your app on an Android device without the need to install an IDE or the mobile platform's SDK."

Many of the core Chrome APIs available to Chrome Apps run natively on mobile, according to Grieve, including identity, which allows users to sign in using OAuth2 without prompting for passwords; payments, which lets developers sell virtual goods within their mobile apps; pushMessaging, which allows developers to push messages to their apps from their servers; and sockets, which allows apps to send and receive data over the network using TCP and UDP.

Developers also have access to a wide range of APIs supported in the Cordova platform, he wrote.

"For Web developers, this tool chain provides a simple workflow for extending the reach of Chrome Apps to users on mobile platforms," according to Grieve. "The tool chain is in developer preview mode, and we expect to continually improve it based on your feedback. To get started, take a look at our dev workflow and sample apps. As always, we welcome your feedback on Stack Overflow, our G+ Developers page or our developer forum. "

In September 2013, Google introduced a new breed of Chrome Apps that work offline by default and act like native applications on the host operating system. The original Chrome Apps were for Chrome and Windows users. Then in December 2013, Google expanded the use of the feature-laden apps to Apple Macintosh desktop users.

The first developer preview of the Chrome packaged app concept was launched by Google in May 2013. That was followed in July by the release of six new feature-filled APIs as part of the growing stable of Chrome packaged apps browser add-ons that aim to enrich the experiences of Chrome browser users. The Chrome packaged apps help give richer user experiences by adding more access to Google services for Chrome Web browser users.

Chrome Apps work offline, update automatically and sync to any computer where users are signed into Chrome, so users can pick up where they left off.

A wide range of other Chrome Apps is also available in the Chrome Web Store.

In September, the Chrome browser celebrated its fifth birthday. Launched in 2008 as a desktop or laptop application, Chrome today is widely used as a mobile browser on many different devices by users to browse the Web and conduct searches, whether they are at home, at work, traveling or vacationing.

Chrome has had quite a ride since its birth. In June 2012, it surpassed Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the world's most used browser for the first time, and it added lots of useful features over the years to encourage even more users to adopt it.