Soon enough, Chrome OS won't be the only game in town when it comes to tightly integrated web apps running on a Linux core. Today Canonical announced Ubuntu WebApps, a new feature that will be integrated into version 12.10 of the open-source OS, Quantal Queztal. In its simplest form this means being able to place an icon in the launcher and open your favorite sites and services as standalone windows. When you visit a compatible page in the browser an alert pops up asking if you want to "install" it as a WebApp. So far, most of the engineers' efforts have focused on Firefox, but Pete Goodall (a product manager at Canonical) said Chrome and Chromium support is also in the works. The really fun starts, though, when devs start playing with the new APIs and Greasemonkey-like extensibility offered. WebApps will be able to access many of Unity's finer features like progress bars in the launcher, the sound menu and messaging menu as well. So now you can get desktop alerts from Gmail without installing some wonky app or setting up Thunderbird. WebApps can even tap into the HUD, though, it'll be up to the devs to expose the appropriate actions to the search-as-you-type menu system.
Of course, this is all just the first step. More APIs will eventually expose additional features, and high on that list is hardware access -- an essential feature for video and voice chat. Another key plan is integrating web credentials with desktop apps. So, if you log into Facebook in the browser, Shotwell will recognize that and upload imported photos to your profile. The initial list of recognized apps is small, but impressive, including Twitter, Last.FM, GMail, Google+, Facebook and YouTube. And, while the feature is set to debut in October with Quantal, Pangolin devotees will also be able to take advantage simply by adding a repository to their software sources.
Update: You'll now find the PR and a nice demo video after the break.