Back in 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8, which was essentially the company’s first modern operating system coming with support for a brand-new Microsoft Store.
This Store, which at the time of the Windows 8 launch only comprised some 5,000 apps, was supposed to provide access to software that was malware-free and specifically optimized to adapt to different screen resolutions, with the focus also put on touch input.
Windows RT, the platform that Microsoft launched as the foundation of the Surface RT, was in its turn expected to benefit from this Microsoft Store, as apps published here were developed to run on any device, no matter the size or the screen resolution.
This push for Microsoft Store apps has failed and since then, Microsoft has been trying to tackle the lack of apps with various concepts, including universal apps (UWP) developed for all modern Windows devices, and more recently, Progressive Web Apps (PWA).
The idea behind a PWA is quite simple: websites can be converted into apps, and on Windows 10, users can launch them from their desktops, get a live tile in the Start menu, and even notifications in the Action Center.
But despite the obvious advantages that a PWA brings to users, developers have never rushed to release such apps, in turn recommending customers to access their websites or, of course, stick with mobile apps for Android and iOS.
The most recent update for Google Chrome, which brings the browser to version 70, includes support for Progressive Web Apps too, and the search giant is using an approach similar to the one on Windows 10.
Websites can be converted into apps that benefit from native features like notifications and live tiles. The difference is that these apps run in Chrome and do not need to be installed from the Microsoft Store, but directly from their official websites.
Unlike Microsoft’s approach, there’s a very good chance that Google’s push for PWAs is going to work. And at the same time, it’s going to resolve the app problem on Windows 10.
It’s all related to Google Chrome’s market share. Google’s browser currently runs on more than 60 percent of PCs across the world, and this gives the search company the opportunity to conquer the platforms it’s targeting with new features. Since more than 6 users in 10 run Chrome, every little new feature has a huge chance of becoming a hit. And this is the case of PWAs too.
While on Windows 10 launching a PWA wasn’t really a priority for developers because not everyone sees the Microsoft Store as the one place for new apps, this isn’t the case of Google Chrome.
Thanks to its impressive market share, Google Chrome can convince developers that PWAs are needed, especially because it would allow users to access their services easier. This technically means that PWAs become a factor for choosing a specific service or an alternative, as some users could just stick with a certain product just because it’s offering a PWA.
And given that 6 in 10 users run Chrome, this scenario could actually happen more often than anticipated, so PWAs could simply become a must-have sooner or later.
For the time being, there aren’t a lot of PWAs with support for Google Chrome, but I expect devs to release such apps one by one in the coming months. Google also wants to expand PWA support for Linux and macOS, technically providing devs with another big reason for launching apps for their services.
When this happens, Google will manage to resolve a problem that Microsoft has been struggling for years to address. And as it turns out, the search giant managed to do it with just a single browser update, while Microsoft still can’t find that brilliant idea that would convince devs to code for its platform.