Google, web apps, we need to talk.
People freaking love apps. This much is clear. They go to the store, chuck a bunch in their virtual basket and BAM. Shiny new icons on the desktop to prod at like a hungry lab rat at the feeeder. If an app doesn't have a big colourful icon and cannot be 'bought' in a virtual store front, guess what? No dice. Instant fail.
I'm going to lay my cards on the table. I make web apps. I love web apps. Needless to say, web apps from the big G specifically. What I very much do not love is how horrible they are to use and how poorly they integrate in with the other native apps on my operating systems of choice (in my case Windows 8 and Android) I still need native apps. I need these apps to all work together as one without having to give it a second thought. I don't care if it's native or not, I don't care what underlying technology it is running on. I just want the apps dammit.
So we have our typical user who's staring at the business end of a shiny new Windows laptop. We shall call him Jimmy. Jimmy wants to use Gmail just like his Android smartphone. He finds the Chrome store and he enters. Jimmy is pleased with the familiar array of colourful icons. He clicks Add and takes a long, deep sniff of that new app smell.
1. Click on app
2. Prod app icon to start
No. Hmm. Is the app on my taskbar, no. Is it in my start menu with everything else? My desktop?
Assuming all the Chrome apps don't appear in a new browser tab. This has probably happened;
Yo, we heard you liked launchers so we put a launcher on your launcher.
What in the hell is this thing. I don't even know where to start. Why are my web apps segregated away in a weird little box on my taskbar, why can't they just live with the rest of my apps?? Windows has a perfectly good (excellent in the case of Windows 8) multi-tasking and app management setup. Why Google are you just compleeeeetly ignoring this? Want to switch apps? Alt-tab through your 'regular' apps until you get to Chrome, grab your mouse and then look through the jumble of tabs until you find your app, click the tab. Or you could just find the web app in the shiny new Chrome launcher and click on it.. oh wait, it was already running, now I have 2 Gmails. Double Gmail.
But what, there's more! We got launchers in our apps now!
How about, every mail I receive in Gmail has a launcher across the top with apps in it?
Here. Here is what I want to see.
Web apps and native apps living harmoniously. I click on Gmail, it opens fullscreen, I click on it again, the same instance pops up. Beautiful. How do I achieve this? Dicking around Chrome commadline switches or finding the 'Add application shortcut' buried in the tools menu of Chrome and then copying the shortcut into my start menu folder and then digging out a nice looking icon. There is a similar option in Chrome beta for Android to add web apps to the homescreen and merge them in with your regular multi-tasking flow but it's A. only in Chrome beta B. requires devs to add additional markup to their app C. buggy as hell D. no one even knows it exists.
But what about 'Chrome Apps for your Desktop'?? Well, it looks like we're on the right track. I can install a 'For your desktop' version of Google Keep and it will actually end up with a shiny icon on my start menu. 1 web app from Google which works like native (albeit with an ugly menu bar) after all this time and STILL we're pushing the Chrome launcher.
It's no wonder every single mention of Chrome OS is flooded sarky comments about it being a 'glorified web browser' and the general disdain for web apps. Companies are spending thousands replicating their web content into native apps because of how damn awkward web apps are to use.
Please Google, stop trying to force web apps into stupid places and just put them with all the other damn apps on my computer.