I’ve been very critical of Apple’s recent moves in deprecating java and excluding java-based applications from their new Mac App store. Their restrictive policies seem to be strong-arming developers into using their closed set of tools (and allowing apple to take 30% of all sales). So when I heard about Google’s new Chrome App store, I was naturally excited about the promise of a more open environment where apps are not shunned merely because they were built with a non-approved tool.
Unfortunately, it seems that they have gone a little too far in the opposite direction of Apple. The Chrome App store is meant to be a marketplace for web-based applications (i.e. anything that runs in a web browser). It allows users to install web applications so that they are added to their dashboard and can be easily accessed. Google provides tools for developers to handle purchases through the app store and keep track of user’s licenses. Unlike Apple’s closed model where only Cocoa-built apps need apply, the Chrome store invites all technologies that run in a web browser including HTML5, Flash, Silverlight, and Java (applets and webstart apps). I applaud Google for taking this step and for keeping the market open to such a wide array of technologies, but the current state of store is a little disorienting because they don’t seem to be very strict about the applications integrating into the app store frameworks. Many of the “applications” are just glorified web pages that can’t really be called an “app”. Others that could be classified as apps aren’t integrated at all with the app store other than the initial link – so that when you click on the icon, you are just taken to the app’s homepage that contains all kinds of advertising and gives an option to register for an account or login. When you’re clicking on an “app” icon to open an application, you expect to be taken directly into some sort of app interface…. you don’t expect to have to fill out a registration form or log in every time you visit.
My suggestion to Google would be to become a little more discerning about what kinds of apps get accepted into their store. They should start with a set of rules about one quarter the size of the Apple App store submission guidelines to ensure that the user experience is as close as possible to using a desktop application. If users have to sift through too much garbage, they’ll just give up and the app store will become a glorified set of bookmarks.