The Chrome Apps empire could be coming to iOS

Google plans to let developers deploy Chrome-packaged apps on any platform where there's Chrome -- including Android and iOS

A little detective work by the folks at TheNextWeb has turned up what Google has tentatively confirmed to be a project to allow support for Android and iOS in Chrome Apps, possibly to be released sometime at the beginning of next year.

Chrome Apps -- formerly Chrome Packaged Apps -- are a way of taking HTML5-based applications and packaging them in a way that they look and feel to the end-user like a platform-native app. They run offline by default, but they can connect to the network if needed, and they have access to low-level hardware services like USB not enjoyed by ordinary Web apps.

Most of the work done for Chrome Apps so far has been for the desktop, but a GitHub repository entitled "mobile-chrome-apps" appears to be the start of a project for Chrome Apps to be deployed not only on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Chrome OS, but also as Android and "iOS hybrid native apps."

The toolkit employs Apache Cordova, a way for mobile app developers to use JavaScript to access native device functionality on a variety of mobile platforms. This includes not just iOS and Android, but also Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Palm WebOS, Symbian, and Bada.

All this adds up to yet another way Google is attempting to create an app ecosystem that builds on top of all its existing work with Chrome. On the one hand, Google's trying to step beyond what it sees as the limitations of bog-standard JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS by creating a clutch of new standards that build outward from those. The work it's done with languages like Dart and mechanisms like PNaCl (Portable Native Client) are part of that.

Unfortunately, Dart and PNaCl aren't experiencing the kind of uptake or outward adoption that Google would like to see, as those technologies have spawned at least as many opponents as adherents. Dart in particular might end up creating as many problems as it solves. What's more, much of the current push in the HTML5 world is toward making JavaScript that much more universal and flexible, rather than scrapping it entirely. Node.js, asm.js, and the growing plethora of JavaScript application frameworks out there are all proof of that.

However, Google's also doing just as much work to make the most of the existing HTML5/JavaScript ecosystem, and Chrome Apps employ enough of that legacy to count as a step forward for Google in that direction. Given how much success its efforts with JavaScript and HTML5 have already yielded -- after all, Node.js was built on top of Google's V8 JavaScript engine -- it's smart for Google to be hedging its bets.

The more places it can put its software technologies without compromise -- that is, without having to build platforms not likely to be adopted by others -- the better it'll be for the company. And for us.

This story, "The Chrome Apps empire could be coming to iOS," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.