Google will wind down Chrome apps starting in June

Google said Wednesday that it will begin to phase out traditional Chrome apps starting in June, and winding down slowly over two years’ time. Chrome extensions, though, will live on.

Google said Tuesday in a blog post that it would stop accepting new Chrome apps in March. Existing apps could continue to be developed through June, 2022.

The important dates start in June of this year, when Google will end support for Chrome Apps on the Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. Education and Enterprise customers on these platforms will get a little more time to get their affairs in order, until December, 2020. 

Google had actually said four years ago that it would phase out Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2018. The company appears to have waited longer than announced before beginning this process.

The other platform that’s affected by this, of course, is Google’s own Chrome OS and Chromebooks, for which the apps were originally developed. Chrome apps will be supported on this platform until June, 2022, with extra time for Education and Enterprise customers until December of that year.

Google will continue to invest in and support Chrome extensions. Both Chrome apps and Chrome extensions have been accessible via the Chrome Web Store. However, in researching this story, we noticed that even if you Google “Chrome apps,” the link that Google takes you to is just the extensions page.

Chrome apps and Chrome extensions are somewhat similar. In 2010, Google defined the difference between the two: A Chrome app is “something more rich and interactive than a website, but less cumbersome and monolithic than a desktop application,” like a game or photo editor. A Chrome extension is something simpler that augments the function of Google Chrome: “Extensions also provide functionality, but unlike apps, there is little or no UI component.” An example of an extension could be a currency converter, which could be accessed via a button on the Chrome taskbar.

According to Google, Chrome apps will be replaced by rich web apps, which will essentially replicate the function of a Chrome app inside of a webpage. Google has a developer-focused transition page where the company encourages developers to build Progressive Web Apps, or a combination of an extension and a web app, so that the extension can load the web app’s UI from an external page. Google apparently thinks these web-like PWAs will step in for Chromebooks by the time Chrome apps bid farewell in a few years. 

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LoJack Will Wind Down its American Operations in June

LoJack, a pioneer in the field of connected cars, will wind down its American sales operations in 2021. It will stop taking purchase orders in March, but it pledged to continue supporting stolen vehicle services indefinitely.

Founded in 1986, in an era when cars and computers were still largely mutually exclusive, LoJack rose to prominence by offering motorists a stolen vehicle recovery system that law enforcement officials could directly access. This was revolutionary in the 1980s, because even new luxury cars were relatively simple to steal with basic tools. LoJack’s technology was extremely innovative: GPS wasn’t commercially available yet, so its recovery system relied on a small radio transceiver that emits a signal every 15 seconds on a frequency set aside specifically for it.

If your, say, 1990 Ford Thunderbird got stolen, police officers could find it (hopefully in one piece) by tracking its LoJack device. The transceiver helped police officers recover thousands of cars. Commercial GPS systems became increasingly common in the 1990s, however, and trackers encroached on LoJack’s turf. Then, technology like General Motors-developed OnStar gave motorists an alternative to the system that was already built into their car.

LoJack fired back by expanding its roster of features to include boundary alerts and crash detecting, and by branching out into different segments. It notably released a system that tracked stolen laptops. But, much like Nokia, it missed a turn and fell behind. California-based CalAmp purchased the company in 2016 in a bid to turn it around, but the competition (from direct rivals, from start-ups like the freshly launched RecovR, and from carmakers) was already far ahead.

CalAmp explained in a statement that it will continue to support dealership orders for Classic SVR, Connect, and Connect+ products until June 18, 2021, though it’s asking customers to submit all final purchase orders no later than March 15. Suddenly pulling the plug on the project would have a negative effect on the law enforcement officials who use its products, so it will continue to honor its service commitments with police departments indefinitely.

Surprisingly, the announcement only applies to LoJack’s American division. Its international business will continue to operate in locations like Mexico, Italy, and England, among other countries. CalAmp pointed out that its international business operates with a subscription-based business model that’s well-aligned with its strategy.

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