Google Polishes Chrome With Web App Store

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google Inc. will open a Web applications store later this year in an attempt to make it easier to find and set up programs within the Internet search leader's Chrome browser.

The online store, previewed Wednesday during a Google conference for software programmers, appears to be ideally suited for the lightweight laptops called "netbooks" that will rely on an operating system revolving around the Chrome browser. The Chrome OS netbooks won't have hard drives and will need Internet access to run applications.

These inexpensive computers are scheduled to be on store shelves in time for the holiday shopping season.

Google didn't specify a precise date for the opening of its new applications, or "apps," store, saying only that it will be accessible to the more than 70 million users of the Chrome browser before the end of the year. The company already operates an apps store for its Andriod software that powers a wide variety of smart phones.

Bigger news is likely to come Thursday at Google's developers conference. That's when the company is expected to announce it is working with Sony Corp., Intel Corp. and Logitech International to make it easier to search and view the Web on flat-panel televisions.

The Internet-connected televisions are expected to rely on Android as an operating system and use Chrome as its browser.

Although it has steadily grown in popularity since its 2008 debut, the Chrome browser still ranks far behind Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer and also trails Mozilla's Firefox.

Google's Web apps store also could provide fodder for a tablet computer to compete with Apple's iPad. Verizon has acknowledged it is working with Google on an iPad alternative, although Google has said little about that effort.

Apple says iPad users have downloaded more than 12 million apps from its store since that computer's early April debut.

Like the Apple store, Google will offer free applications while other programs may charge a fee.

In Wednesday's preview, Sports Illustrated magazine showed why people may want to download an app from Google's store instead of visiting a website.

The Sports Illustrated app replicates the look of the print magazine while offering a variety of interactive features. Among other things, the application enables readers to rearrange the pages to suit their tastes, call up statistics and click on videos amplifying on subjects covered in the articles without leaving a page.

Like many magazines and newspapers, Time Warner Inc.'s Sports Illustrated is hoping that smart phones, tablet computers and other mobile gadgets will spur more sales of subscriptions and advertising to help offset dwindling revenue from print editions.