Google isn't one to flog a dead horse. In fact, the company is happy to sink its projects if they're failing to perform, despite how popular they appear to be. Packaged Chrome apps are next on Google's hitlist, with the announcement yesterday that they'll be phased out over the next 12-24 months.
First, the good news. Apps on Chrome OS will continue to be supported -- it's only the desktop platforms of Windows, Mac and Linux that will be affected. Also, they won't be dropped immediately. As is common with Google's other shelved initiatives, the deconstruction will take place over the course of a few years:
Starting in late 2016, newly-published Chrome apps will only be available to users on Chrome OS. Existing Chrome apps will remain accessible on all platforms, and developers can continue to update them. In the second half of 2017, the Chrome Web Store will no longer show Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux, but will continue to surface extensions and themes. In early 2018, users on these platforms will no longer be able to load Chrome apps.
From Google's perspective, axing desktop Chrome apps isn't coming out of the blue; the company has the stats to back up its decision:
As we continue our efforts to simplify Chrome, we believe it’s time to begin the evolution away from the Chrome apps platform. There are two types of Chrome apps: packaged apps and hosted apps. Today, approximately 1% of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps, and most hosted apps are already implemented as regular web apps. We will be removing support for packaged and hosted apps from Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux over the next two years.
I'd like to think it's also motivated by Google's new work in the operating system space, but honestly, there's no point in pouring time into something that services a measly one per cent of users.