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When it was launched five years ago, Google’s Chrome operating system was fundamentally different than other OSs out there because it was completely cloud and browser-based. All of its functionality occurred through an Internet connection rather than on the computer itself.
With Chrome, Google was betting on the notion that most users’ computing needs could be met by resources available on the web. The conclusion makes sense, since the Google Chrome web browser is considered one of the most popular browsers in the world.
On September 5, Chrome’s fifth anniversary, Google announced a new line of Chrome apps that, while still running in the browser window, look and behave much more like traditional desktop software, addressing some of the limitations of running apps that are dependent on an Internet connection. The new Chrome Apps allow users to work offline; store data locally; avoid the tab, button, and text box distractions of a browser window (accomplished by the app going full screen); and support interaction with connected devices such as USB drives, Bluetooth devices and digital cameras.
Some have criticized this move as a departure from the browser-centric purity of Chrome, and perhaps an admission that users cannot live by browser alone. But a more optimistic take is that Chrome users have the best of both worlds.
The evolution of Google's Chrome OS isn't a complete surprise. After all, sales of its netbook-like Chromebooks have been through the roof, accounting for 20-25 percent of notebook sales in the U.S., according to a report from PC Mag. With that many users, Google likely needed to bring back more traditional desktop functionality to ease the transition from a locally run OS to a cloud OS.