Chrome is becoming an OS within an OS thanks to Chrome's new app launcher.
The Chromium Blog reports that Google has released a Chrome app launcher for the Windows platform. It's a dedicated home for Chrome apps on the desktop, the same one that's currently offered on Chromebooks. To get it, Windows users will first need the Dev channel build of Chrome, and then a Chrome packaged app like Text Drive or the CIRC IRC client.
"You’ll get the app launcher as an icon on your Windows taskbar the first time you install a packaged app," said Chrome product manager Sriram Satroop. "Chrome packaged apps are not yet searchable on the Chrome Web Store - but you can build your own packaged app, upload it to the Chrome Web Store and access it via its direct link."
The great thing about packaged apps is that they work offline by default, and have access to "powerful" APIs now available to web-based Chrome apps. Unfortunately, these apps aren't listed on the Chrome Web Store, but once they become available, Chrome itself should feel more like an OS within an OS rather than a glorified browser.
As instructed, once the user updates Chrome to the latest developer build, a window pops up introducing the Chrome App Launcher after choosing to install a packaged app (shown left). After selecting "Get the Launcher", an additional confirmation box appears, asking the user to verify the installation of the app.
Once both are installed, the launcher appears next to the clock on the taskbar. Tap it, and a menu appears listing the available apps (shown above). Here users have access to all apps installed in Chrome whether they're web-based or packaged. The icons visually depict which ones are online-only, enveloping the app with a faint browser window outline. Blue bars along the bottom of the menu show how many app pages are available.
With the Chrome app launcher installed, the Chrome browser seemingly becomes just a browser. All app shortcuts are removed from the New Tab page, thus leaving only pinned webpage shortcuts. The Chrome App Store link now resides in both the launcher and at the bottom right-hand corner of the New Tab screen next to the Other Devices and Recently Closed options.
Note that in this article, the launcher was installed on the Windows 8 desktop. The launcher itself is merely a static tile in the Modern UI overlay (AKA Start Screen) that brings the user right back to the desktop.