Adding Chrome, Gmail, and other Google services to Windows 8

Adding Chrome, Gmail, and other Google services to Windows 8

Summary: Microsoft and Google might be archrivals in business, but you don't have to get caught in the crossfire. Google is making excellent progress in its quest to add Windows 8 (Metro) support to Chrome. And Microsoft's flagship Windows 8 apps connect well with Gmail and other Google services. Here's how to get everything to work together.

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Microsoft and Google might be archrivals on the business front, but they share a lot of customers. That means both companies have to grit their teeth and ensure that there’s at least some level of cooperation between the products that those shared customers use.

Chrome-Metro-and-desktop-icons-thumbnail

Google counts an enormous number of Windows users among its installed base for the Chrome browser and for services like Gmail and Google Apps. It can’t afford to ignore Windows 8.

Likewise, Microsoft would love to win those Chrome and Gmail users over to Internet Explorer, Office 365, and Outlook.com, but it has to accept the reality that many of those users have gone Google and aren’t coming back. So for Windows 8, Microsoft has to ensure that Google services work well out of the box.

It’s a classic example of co-opetition.

Over the past few days, I’ve been looking at the state of that relationship. Here’s a rundown of what Google customers can expect from Windows 8.

Gallery: Google and Windows 8, working together

Let's start with Google Chrome for Metro.

I know, I know. Technically, it's now Windows 8 mode, not Metro.

relaunch-chrome-in-windows8-mode-small

Microsoft has purged the Metro name from most of its developer documentation, but it lives on in the official guide for browser developers (including Google and Mozilla) who are developing Metro-style enabled desktop browsers. These are curious hybrids that will run both on the traditional desktop and as Windows 8 full-screen apps. Here’s a snippet or two from that documentation, last updated August 16, 2012:

In Windows 8, the browser that the user sets as the default for handling web pages and associated protocols may be designed to access both the Metro style experience as well as the traditional desktop experience.  This type of browser is called a Metro style enabled desktop browser. 

Chrome 21, the current shipping version of Google’s browser, already supports Metro mode. With this version, setting Chrome as the default browser changes its Start screen icon to the Windows 8 style. Clicking that icon takes you to the Metro-style browser; to switch to the desktop browser, you have to go to the desktop and click the Chrome icon there.

But Chrome version 23 (currently available via the Dev channel) changes this behavior significantly. Setting Chrome as the default browser changes its tile to Metro style. New options on the Chrome menu let you switch back and forth between Metro and desktop versions, reopening all current tabs in the other environment. The Start screen tile remembers your choice, so clicking it takes you to the environment you were last using.

I was able to install extensions in the Metro version of Chrome 21, but they lived in a separate profile from the desktop version. By contrast, extensions I installed in either version of Chrome 23 (Metro or desktop) showed up when switching browser modes. That’s a noteworthy differentiator between Google’s Metro browser and Microsoft’s plugin-free Internet Explorer 10 for Metro.

Changing the default browser to Chrome was more confusing than it should be. See the gallery for details of how this process works.

PAGE 2: Gmail and other Google services ->

Topics: Software, Google, Microsoft, Windows

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23 comments
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  • "Windows 8 Mode"...

    Yikes! "Windows 8 Mode"? Is that a Microsoft or Google thing? Whoever came up with that... Well, you know. Why can they not use the name Modern? It sounds so much better...
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • I don't know why but what's the diff?

      If you're presently in the "legacy desktop" mode and see that menu option, it currently implies that it's the mode you're not currently experiencing, which would naturally be Metro/Modern/whatev.

      Also, I believe it's context-sensitive as such that menu item won't appear in the Modern mode.
      reynoldsorb
      • The naming is just awful.

        It makes me cringe, that they couldn't come up with anything better than "Windows 8 mode".

        It also saddens me that the Metro design language seems lost on Google. C"mon guys....
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
        • Technically its not called "Metro Mode"

          http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/08/09/metro_to_be_called_windows8/

          Microsoft themselves now call it "Windows 8 Mode" because they legally can not call it Metro Mode.
          But lets blame Google for calling it by its real name.
          Please research your claim before posting it.
          Dustin Poissant
  • SECURITY ALERT: Microsoft releases critical updates for IE flaws Topic: Sof

    This is suppose to be! Good on you Microsoft & Google.
    pamandua2
  • SECURITY ALERT: Microsoft releases critical updates for IE flaws Topic: Sof

    I'll be buying window phone & window tablet. Forget about iPhone & ipad....
    pamandua2
  • “Co-opetition” = “Beginning Of The End”

    Note that none of those Google services actually depend on any features specific to Windows to run—they run just as nicely on Macs, Chromebooks, or even on Android devices.

    “Co-opetition” was the word used by Borland back in the early 1990s, when they gave up trying to compete with Microsoft and just decided to live with it. Guess what happened to Borland after that?

    If Microsoft has given up trying to compete with Google, and has decided just to live with it, guess what’s going to happen to Microsoft...
    ldo17
    • Seriously...

      Your comment could (and does) apply the other way too!
      crystalsoldier
      • Re: Seriously...

        Seems less likely, somehow...
        ldo17
        • How so?

          ..did Chrome Desktop suddenly take over the "real computing" world? Or are you still relying on Android tablets to show Microsoft the door?
          daftkey
          • Re: How so?

            Read the article. Note that none of those Google services actually depend on any features specific to Windows to run—they run just as nicely on Macs, Chromebooks, or even on Android devices.

            “Co-opetition” was the word used by Borland back in the early 1990s, when they gave up trying to compete with Microsoft and just decided to live with it. Guess what happened to Borland after that?

            If Microsoft has given up trying to compete with Google, and has decided just to live with it, guess what’s going to happen to Microsoft...
            ldo17
          • Cutting and pasting the same argument over and over...

            ..doesn't make it any more valid.

            Ed used the "co-opetition" word to describe this, not Microsoft. And Borland's need to compete with Microsoft on application development is quite different than Chrome being able to be run with an Metro interface.

            Most of what I've seen in the article points to Google building Windows 8 style applications, using tools available to any developers in the Windows 8 toolchest. This hardly appears to be a Borland-like "give up trying to compete" move on Microsoft's part.

            What is interesting, on the flip side, is that this allows users to continue to use Google's services without being exposed to ads on those services. If anything, this is a detriment to Google, not a help.
            daftkey
          • Re: This hardly appears to be a Borland-like "give up trying to compete" mo

            It means that Microsoft has given up trying to offer Google-like services. And note that none of those Google services actually depend on any features specific to Windows to run—they run just as nicely on Macs, Chromebooks, or even on Android devices.

            “Co-opetition” was the word used by Borland back in the early 1990s, when they gave up trying to compete with Microsoft and just decided to live with it. Guess what happened to Borland after that?

            If Microsoft has given up trying to compete with Google, and has decided just to live with it, guess what’s going to happen to Microsoft...
            ldo17
    • and at that time

      Borland had much better products than MS. and MS killed Borland. It was so sad.
      ForeverSPb
      • Not all their products were that good ....

        Borland's C++ product was so bad, it drove me to MFC.
        roteague
        • I can atest to that

          the Borland builder & compiler i used in 2004 were a right pain in the ass to navigate (UI-wise) .. much less debug.
          thx-1138_
  • I would keep my PC google free.

    Thanks Ed, but at home I prefer to keep a google free evnironment. Especially with Win8, there is no need for any google junk, :- Bing & IE10 is perfect.
    owlllnet
    • +1

      Windows 8 with SkyDrive, Office 2013, Outlook.com, Bing and IE10 enough
      Ram U
      • Agreed.

        I'm in love with Microsoft's lineup. It's looking to be a good year for them.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Gmail Labels

    One huge disadvantage of the new Mail app is the missing labeling known from Gmail. They just don't show up in the. Another problem are the few settings that are available. For me there's no good reason to use that app. I hope Google will bring its own.
    ssc-hrep