A recent developer build of Google's Chrome web browser enabled a technology called Chrome Packaged Apps by default. Much like what's offered in the Mozilla Marketplace, "packaged" apps obtained through Chrome can be installed directly into Windows like any other standalone program, storing files on the local disk and placing a shortcut on the desktop.
"Packaged apps will no longer be tied to the browser," said Chrome Engineering Manager Erik Kay in a video about Chrome packaged apps. "Rather than running as a tab inside of Chrome, packaged apps can be launched from outside of Chrome, have their own top-level windows, and generally behave like first-class apps on the operating system... The user shouldn't be aware your app was built with Web technologies."
"When a user opens a packaged app, their focus is specifically on the tasks relating to the app. Packaged apps have no traditional chrome features: the omnibox (address bar), tab strip, and other browser interface elements no longer appear. Like native apps, they don’t live within the browser. When launched, packaged apps can open in windows that look like this (and you can style your windows in all different ways)," Kay explains.
Packaged apps deliver an experience as capable as a native app, but as safe as a web page, he adds.
With Packaged Apps, the team is also adding a batch of new APIs so that developers can take advantage of system-level services and devices like TCP/IP, USB and Bluetooth. There are also new shared-data APIs to help developers inter-operate with other applications on the system when dealing with photos, music, contacts, identity and other data that non-Web apps on a computer system might also use.
"With access to Chrome APIs and services not available to traditional web apps, you can build powerful apps that interact with network and hardware devices, as well as, media apps," he said. A short list includes shells (VMWare, Citrix, SSH, RDP or VNC clients), music/video streaming and photo/video/music editing.
Packaged Apps are merely modified web apps, he said. Developers use the same code, frameworks, and tools of the web platform to write their apps. Some browser features have been removed while other web APIs have been disabled or changed to improve security and programming practices.
For more information about Packaged Apps, head here.