Google grows web store, video, cloud ambitions

Google announced a web application store, a video standard and a cloud services initiative in the opening keynote of its developer conference on Wednesday – moves that rivals are likely to view as a threatening flexing of its web muscles.

The new Chrome web store will rival Microsoft programs and Intel’s AppUp store and provide tablet makers with a useful weapon to fight Apple’s iPad and iTunes. Its WebM video standard presents a long-term threat to Adobe’s Flash technology and could irk Apple, which favours the H.264 standard. Its cloud services collaboration with VMware and its associated Google App Engine for Business will be studied closely by Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce.com and others involved in cloud computing.

The Chrome web store will appear as an opening tab screen in its Chrome browser, which has more than doubled in active users over the past year from 30m to 70m plus, according to Google.

Sundar Pichai, head of product management, showed applications such as Tweetdeck, photo editing and games to developers at its I/O conference in San Francisco. Magazines would also be available in the store and a version of Sports Illustrated was demonstrated.

In video, Google announced it was opensourcing the VP8 codec it acquired when it bought On2 for $106m last year and putting it into a new video standard called WebM. YouTube was converting its entire catalogue to the new standard, Google said.

“Many of these [existing] codecs are plagued with uncertainty about the royalties and licensing of video materials encoded with those codecs and we don’t think that’s a good thing,” Vic Gundotra (pictured), head of engineering at Google, told a press conference.

” We want it to be free and open, the web needs that open standard … it’s a gift to the web and we think it’s part of our job.”

Executives from Mozilla and Opera, creators of the Firefox and Opera browsers, came on stage to announce their support for WebM. They were followed by Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer for Adobe, who said VP8 would be incorporated in its Flash player, but he stopped short of endorsing the new WebM standard. Unsurprisingly, there was no Apple representation at the conference.

Google’s partnership with VMware was presented as a new operating system for the cloud, with VMWare’s Springsource software supplying the back end and serving the private cloud and linking with Google Web Toolkit to cover the public cloud. Its open source layer would make applications portable across different clouds.

Google App Engine for Business is designed to allow organisations “to build and maintain their applications on the same scalable architecture that powers Google applications, with added management and support features tailored specifically for the enterprise.”

With both moves, Google’s push deep into the software infrastructure of cloud computing may alarm a host of players, including Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce.com.

Thursday’s keynote is expected to focus on Google’s Android operating system and its expansion into televisions, set-top boxes and yet more areas likely to cause high anxiety to existing players.