Google Adds New Packaged Apps to Chrome Dev Channel Browser

The Chrome packaged apps help give richer user experiences by adding more access to Google services for Chrome Web browser users.

Google's Chrome Web browser has received six new feature-filled APIs as part of its growing stable of Chrome packaged apps browser add-ons that are aimed at enriching the experiences of Chrome browser users.

The new APIs have been added to the latest Chrome Dev channel release, which continues to undergo development work before later progressing as a beta and then a stable release to the general public, according to a July 8 post by Mike Tsao, the Chrome apps tech lead, on The Chromium Blog.

"As part of our ongoing effort to bring powerful capabilities to Chrome packaged apps, today's Chrome Dev channel release brings Chrome packaged apps richer access to Google services such as Google Analytics, Google APIs and Google Wallet, and better OS integration using services such as Bluetooth and native app communication," wrote Tsao.

Packaged apps offer several key benefits for Chrome users, according to Google, including that they run separately from the browser and are offline applications, so they don't rely on having always-on access to a network connection. That makes packaged apps "as capable as a native app, but as safe as a web page," according to Google. The packaged apps are written in HTML5, JavaScript and CSS.

The new Chrome packaged APIs include an Identity API that "allows packaged apps to authenticate users securely using OAuth 2.0 without the user having to provide a username and password directly to the app," according to Tsao's post. "The Identity API supports authentication using Google Accounts as well as third party providers such as GitHub and Foursquare." It also "gives packaged apps secure access to Google APIs such as Google+, Calendar and Drive."

Another API, the In App Payments API, provides a means for packaged app developers to sell digital and virtual goods, wrote Tsao. "The API is built on the Google Wallet for digital goods platform and provides a simple user interface for buyers. In addition to one-time billing, this API supports subscription-based billing" for repeatable purchases.

A new Analytics API is also now available so that packaged app developers can now collect user engagement data from their applications more easily, wrote Tsao. "Developers can then use Google Analytics reports to measure number of active users, adoption and usage of specific features, and many other useful metrics," he wrote.

An enhanced Media Gallery API now allows packaged apps to read music, videos and images from the local disk as long as it is permitted by the users, wrote Tsao. "Starting with this release, a user's iTunes music library will be available as a default media gallery, allowing apps to import and play locally stored music."

Also now featured are a Bluetooth API that allows packaged apps to connect to Bluetooth devices such as smartphones and headsets as well as a Native Messaging API that can communicate with native applications for consumer electronics such as motion sensors and scanners, wrote Tsao.
"During this preview period, packaged apps are available to Chrome Dev channel users in the Chrome Web Store," he wrote. "We've already seen lots of interesting packaged apps uploaded, and we look forward to seeing developers take advantage of these powerful new capabilities."

Packaged apps don't operate within the Chrome browser. Instead they open in their own windows, according to Google.

Back in May, Google launched a developer preview of the Chrome packaged app concept.

In late June, Google released several security and stability fixes for its Chrome Web browser Version 27 and updated the Chrome 27 browser Stable Channel to Version 27.0.1453.116 for Windows, Macintosh and Chrome Frame platforms.

The latest Chrome desktop browser can be downloaded for free from Google.