Google's Chrome/Apps VP: It's 'early days' for Chrome Web Store

Sundar Pichai said Google still sees great promise for the Web apps store that launched in 2010

The Chrome Web Store, open to developers since mid-2010 and to end users since late 2010, is still at a nascent stage, but has the potential to succeed in a major way, according to a Google executive.

So far in this initial phase, Google feels it has done a good job promoting the idea of apps running within a desktop browser to consumers, as evidenced by the fact that the Store's app installs have doubled in the past three months, said Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Chrome and Apps.

Currently, Chrome browser users install about 1 million applications from the store every day, he said during an appearance at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference, where he answered questions from a financial analyst and from audience members.

"We're pretty excited about the opportunity there, but it's still early days," he said.

The next stage is for developers to start earning money from apps, whether by selling them outright or through in-app payment features, according to Pichai.

There will be a "whole slew" of new game applications added to the store, along with more productivity applications, he said.

Asked about the Google Apps collaboration and communication suite, Pichai acknowledged that most customers are still small and medium-size businesses, but that there has been a shift toward acceptance in the past six months by CIOs of large enterprises.

As a result, Google is seeing Apps adoption among large companies and organizations accelerate, he said, offering as examples two recent big customer wins: Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya, which will roll out Apps to its 110,000 employees worldwide, and Roche Group, which will adopt Apps for its 90,000 employees globally.

"That's a profound shift we're seeing," he said.

Large companies' privacy and security concerns about the cloud-hosted model of collaboration and communication suites like Google Apps have lessened, he said.

CIOs also used to worry a lot more about the "feature gap" between the Docs productivity suite of Google Apps and an on-premise competitor like Microsoft Office, but now their priorities have started to shift, he said.

Now, it's becoming more important for enterprises to have a productivity suite that can be deployed across multiple devices, including phones and tablets employees bring to work from home, he said.

"The current model of how you use productivity apps is extremely tied to a Windows-centric view of how you use them," he said, adding that as that model changes, the "value proposition" of Google Apps gets a boost.

Of course, archrival Microsoft sees things differently. Asked for comment about Google's announcement of its Roche Group customer win on Thursday, Microsoft said via email that the announcement is an attempt by Google to "build credibility with the enterprise audience."

"As Google's past history has shown, winning customers is one thing, keeping them is another," Microsoft said.

Microsoft has said that Office 2010 is the fastest-selling consumer version of Office in history: A copy is sold worldwide every second. Office 365, the cloud suite Microsoft launched last year as a Google Apps competitor, is on track to become one of Microsoft's fastest-selling products ever, it said. And about 80 million people use cloud applications from Microsoft, including Office 365, its predecessor Business Productivity Online Suite and the Live@edu suite for schools and universities.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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