Google started dropping hints about its Chrome OS-like plans for Windows 8 back in October. At the time it was merely an experiment in the developer version of Chrome, but today Google is rolling out a new user interface to all Chrome Windows users alongside a noisy tabs tracking feature. The new "Metro" mode essentially converts Chrome for Windows 8 into Chrome OS. Just like Google's full Chrome OS, you can create multiple browser windows and arrange them using a snap to the left or right of the display or full-screen modes. There's even a shelf with Chrome, Gmail, Google, Docs, and YouTube icons that can be arranged at the bottom, left, or right of the screen.
An app launcher is also available in the lower left-hand corner, providing access to search and recent apps. It’s all clearly designed to work well with touch on Windows 8, something that the traditional desktop version of Chrome has not focused on so far. The "Metro" mode presents the keyboard automatically, and also includes the ability to navigate and resize windows within the Chrome OS-like environment. Some UI elements still require some touch optimization, but overall it’s a better experience than the existing desktop version with touch.
While the Chrome browser acts as a Windows 8 application, it's using a special mode that Microsoft has enabled specifically for web browsers. The software maker allows browsers on Windows 8 to launch in its "Metro-style" environment providing they're set as default. The applications are listed in the Windows Store and they're still desktop apps, but the exception allows them to mimic Windows 8 apps and access the app and snapping features of the OS. While Chrome runs in this mode on Windows 8, Microsoft does not permit this type of behavior on Windows RT.
Google’s latest update for Windows 8 is clearly a big step forwards in its Chrome Apps initiative. The search giant is working with developers to create apps that exist outside of the browser and extend Chrome’s reach into more of a platform for third parties to build upon. Having a Chrome OS-like environment directly inside of Windows 8 extends Google’s browser into a Trojan horse to eventually convince users to download more and more Chrome Apps and possibly push them towards Chrome OS in the future.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment on whether Google’s latest Chrome OS update conforms with the Metro-style browser policies, and we’ll update you accordingly.