Google's Chromebook photo app tries to pick your best pics

The software imports, sorts, syncs, and packages up photos imported onto Google's high-end Chrome OS laptop. It's a very Googley way of handling photos.

The Chrome OS photo app imports photos, backs them up to Google Drive cloud storage service, picks what it judges to be the best ones, organizes them accordingly, and presents them for sharing on Google+.
The Chrome OS photo app imports photos, backs them up to Google Drive cloud storage service, picks what it judges to be the best ones, organizes them accordingly, and presents them for sharing on Google+. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google has released its promised photos app for Chromebooks, software that imports photos from an SD card, backs them up to the cloud, and spotlights the ones it judges to be the best.

The software, a Chrome extension, is available only for the Chromebook Pixel at present, but Google is "working to bring the app to other Chromebooks as well," said AJ Asver in a Google+ post Tuesday.

Sundar Pichai, head of Chrome, Google Apps, and now Android, gushed about the app in a February interview during the debut of the Chromebook Pixel, Google's high-end, $1,300 laptop. Here's how he described the software at the time:

You plug in an SD card or connect the camera. It opens your photos in in full resolution and starts backing them up against your 1 terabyte Google Drive quota. There's nothing to mess with. We immediately choose, de-dupe [get rid of duplicates], and take out the blurry pictures. If there are six pictures of kids smiling, we choose the best one or two. It shows the best ones that have been selected in the gallery. It packages them up as album immediately for you to share in Google+.

The software demonstrates a very Googley ambition -- a combination of machine smarts, cloud-computing services, browser-based software, social networking, and consumer convenience. Although plenty of other companies have expertise in one area or another, the photo app shows off Google's breadth.

It's not unreasonable to expect it to spread beyond Chromebooks, at least in some partial form, since Google wants to bring people to its cloud-based services and the Google Photos app is a Chrome extension. It's not a simple matter, however: With Chromebooks, though, Google can give the browser necessary extra abilities to read from USB drives and an SD card slot, which isn't a standard browser feature today.

Another caveat is online storage space. The app asks whether you'd like to store photos in their full-resolution glory or downsampled. Chromebook Pixel owners get 1TB of Google Drive storage space, so the full-resolution option is less likely to blow through your limits and put you into the monthly-payment tier. Lesser Chromebooks typically come with 100GB of storage.

A splash screen for Google's new photo app both promotes and explains the new software for Chrome OS.
A splash screen for Google's new photo app both promotes and explains the new software for Chrome OS. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

After years muddling along with Picasa Web Albums and Panoramio, Google has been on a roll with photos of late, adding features like the "auto-awesome" technology to enhance photos and steadily improving Android camera features .

Offering Google+ as a vehicle for sharing and showing photos means Google has a strong incentive to do more, too. Facebook is a major photo hub for people, and its Instagram photo- and video-sharing service is popular as well.

For photo enthusiasts with higher-end cameras, the Google Photos app can't handle raw photos at present. Perhaps software like that from Pics.io or WebRaw could help browser-based photo apps with that, though.

Via unofficial Google Operating System blog.

By default, the Chrome OS photo app stores photos in full resolution. Chromebook Pixel customers get 1TB of Google Drive storage free for three years.
By default, the Chrome OS photo app stores photos in full resolution. Chromebook Pixel customers get 1TB of Google Drive storage free for three years. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET
 

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