Google is continuing work to grow Chrome OS into a fully-functional replacement for desktop operating systems. Today the company has begun promoting the selection of "packaged apps" — web applications that primarily live offline and look and feel like traditional native programs — in the Chrome Web Store. The new section, aptly called "Apps," is only available for users on the developer channel of Chrome for now, but it will filter down eventually to the stable channel. With the update, these packaged apps are available for users to browse through for the first time (before you had to have the URL if you wanted to download them from the Web Store), and older apps that aren't quite packaged apps have been moved into a "Websites" category in the store.
Packaged apps are one of the primary ways Google plans to make Chrome OS more usable for full-time use. The apps don't necessarily have to look like websites — they just leverage web tools. Part of what makes packaged apps have a "native" feel is that they can be launched in a separate window from the browser, rather than in a tab. They also contain most all of the code that they need to run locally, so the majority of functionality is available offline. Additionally, they can communicate with USB and Bluetooth devices like normal applications. Today's change is also a precursor to what we expect to see at the Google I/O developers' conference in a couple weeks: the company will most definitely be discussing the flexibility of Chrome OS and its legitimacy as a desktop operating system. Hopefully the changes will one day make the OS live up to the Chromebook Pixel's fantastic hardware.