Google Takes the Next Step to Merge Apps And the Web

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Google is further blurring the lines between apps installed on your phone and the web with a new initiative that aims to make apps searchable and easier to use: The company announced Wednesday that it has started to index the content of some apps even if that content isn’t available on the web as well.

One of a select number of partners taking part in Google’s new program is the mobile hotel booking service Hotel Tonight. Google users who search for a hotel in a certain city will get to see not only results from a variety of travel websites, but also from Hotel Tonight’s Android app.

Users don’t actually have to install Hotel Tonight’s app to access the  search result in question. Instead, Google is streaming the app straight from its servers to a user’s mobile web browser, where it can be used just like an app installed on their phone.

This kind of app streaming is similar to the way cable operators are bringing modern user interfaces to legacy set-top boxes, and it’s also being used by cloud-based gaming companies to let users rent games and play them on a wide variety of devices. In Google’s case, the Android app is actually running on the company’s servers, and the users simply gets to see a video stream of its interface, which can be manipulated just like a local app.

Google is for now testing app streaming with just a handful of launch partners. However, the company could eventually use app streaming to make apps much more widely available, and make their usage more secure.

This is also interesting in light of reports that Google is looking to combine its Android of Chome OS operating systems in the future. Android has long been about local apps, whereas Chrome OS is largely based on web-based apps and cloud computing. With apps streaming from the cloud, Google could potentially combine the best of both worlds.

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