December 7, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Google Launches Chrome Web Store for Apps

The world of apps just became more interesting — for everyone, including music fans.

Google beat Apple to the punch with a big announcement on Tuesday: the launch of the Chrome Web Store. Users of Google’s Chrome browser can install Google Web Apps from chrome.google.com/webstore, Google spokespeople announced at a press conference in San Francisco (updated 3:40pm ET). Google also plans to roll out Chrome OS netbooks that will also get their software from the Google Web Apps store by mid-2011.

This means that in addition to installing music apps on your smartphone and tablet, you’ll also be able to install them on your Chrome browser (multiple operating systems), netbook, and, to an extent, competing browsers as well (more on that below).

For music apps — which concern us here at Evolver.fm — this means that rather than charging you monthly payments directly, music services such as MOG, Rhapsody, Slacker and countless others should soon be able to charge you through Google’s Chrome Web Store instead, similar to the way you already pay for apps from Apple iTunes or Android Marketplace. (Google’s Chrome Web Store launches today, but it won’t integrate that sort of payment until the first quarter of next year, according to CNET’s live blog.)

Apple, too, has plans to sell apps that run on computers in addition to iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. Its Mac App Store, set to launch on December 13 according to some rumors, will offer apps that run only on Macintosh computers.

Web apps in Google’s Chrome Web Store, however, will run on any compatible browser on any operating system, so long as they support  HTML5. But Google’s not giving away the farm here.

Users of non-Chrome browsers won’t be able to install apps within their browser (as opposed to using a bookmark), navigate to Chrome Web Apps as easily, or pay for apps within the Chrome Web Store unless they use a Chrome browser, according to Google’s announcement. Clearly, this company, which already dominates online advertising, online video, and several other key areas, has set its sights on becoming the world’s dominant web browser — and then on turning that browser into the world’s dominant operating system for computers.

(Updated, 3:40pm ET: Google Chrome Web Store is live.)

The examples above included music subscription services, but of course, any music app can be sold or offered for free in the Chrome Web Store, from “fart pianos” to artist-specific apps that deliver music and other media from a specific band. Any music app you run on your smartphone could soon run within your browser, for the same price even, through another big centralized app store — this time for computers.

Hardcore music software users, like the ones who record using Pro Tools or make their own patches with Max/MSP, will hardly abandon their complex, client-based software in favor of a web app from the Chrome Web Store. But for the vast majority of people involved with music, most of what they do software-wise will be possible with these web apps — listening, remixing, learning how to play chords, altering our voices, and everything else we’re already doing on our smartphones, within our web browsers, and with simple programs like iTunes, will be possible with Chrome Web Apps.

Computing is changing before our very eyes: Rather than administrating our own systems and hunting down software on our lonesome, it will soon become orders-of-magnitude easier to track down web-based software to run on our desktops, laptops, and netbooks, in much the same way we already do for apps to run on our phones.

Yes, it appears that computers really are trying to become smartphones. Proponents of open computing environments will surely bristle at the notion of consumers installing all of their computers’ software from a single store. But the flipside is that this will make it much easier for consumers to find — and, potentially pay for — music apps of all stripes, whether they run on the web or on a smartphone.

Music apps: they’re not just for phones anymore.

Other interesting tidbits from Google’s big announcement:

  • Owners of Chrome OS netbooks, when they’re released mid-next-year, will be able to purchase a cellular data connection for a single day.
  • Chrome OS netbooks will connect via Wi-Fi or an included Verizon data plan that gets you 100MB of data per month for two years, after which you’ll have to pay for that wireless data (plans start at $9.99 for a day pass), with no penalties for canceling before the term expires (something we’d really like to see from cellphones, too).