Six months after Google (NSDQ: GOOG) first said it was developing an online store that would be built into its Google Chrome web browser and forthcoming Chrome OS operating system where users would be able to find — and buy — apps, Google is rolling out the store, which at launch is featuring 500 apps from big name developers. At an event in San Francisco, Google VP Sundar Pichai showed off an uber-interactive NPR app that includes an easy way for users to add programs to playlists, while New York Times (NYSE: NYT) CTO Marc Frons demonstrated a NYTimes app that lets users see the news through various “skins” in order to scan stories by photos or editor picks.
Notably, the NYTimes app lets users read the news even when they are not connected to the internet, offering a reason why users might choose to download the app, rather than navigate directly to the NYTimes website. Google’s Pichai outlined some other advantages to the Chrome Web Store. Among them, he said, the store offers users an organized way to find online apps, as well as offering developers an easy way to make money from their creations. The store is linked to Google Checkout, so users can buy paid apps with one-click using their Google accounts.
Users look up apps on a landing page that groups apps by general topics, like news and games, and also lets users look up reviews. Google says it is beginning to roll out the store today and will be featuring it “very prominently” on the “new tab” of the Chrome browser.
Google is making a number of other Chrome-related announcements at the event. Among them:
— Browser: Google’s Chrome browser now has 120 million users globally, up 300 percent since January, Google said at the event. The company also announced several updates for its browser. Director of product management Brian Rakowski said users who begin to type a website adress in the navigation bar would now see the web page immediately load even before they were finished typing (Type an “E,” for example, and the ESPN (NYSE: DIS) site will load). The browser is also getting a built-in PDF reader.
— Operating system: Google offered new details about its Google Chrome OS operating system, saying it was partnering with Verizon Wireless so that buyers of laptops running Chrome OS would get “seamless web connectivity.” Users get 100 megabytes of free data access each month for two years and also can buy additional access from Verizon if they need it. Google says notebooks made by Samsung and Acer running Chrome OS will go on sale in mid-2011. In the meantime, Google is distributing some notebooks running the operating system to consumers and businesses as part of a pilot program. As for whether it will ever be available on tablets, executives would not say.