Since its inception, the Google Chrome operating system for Chromebook computers has been unique in its ability to work completely independently of the desktop environment. Very recently the open-source version of Chrome OS, Chromium, has been seen to be amped up by developers in a setup called Aura Shell to have not only a desktop which interacts directly with the offline storage space of the hardware its running on, but applications other than the Chrome browser being launched directly from the desktop as well. While some might say that this defeats the purpose of Chrome OS entirely, the developers working on this project insist that because this version of the OS still has a very cloud-based set of intentions, it remains true to the Chrome OS cause.
Chromebooks have thus far touted their ability to allow you to work with your files and software through the web, this affording you the ability to pick up where you left off no matter what computer you're using. This setup also affords the user higher security, or so Google says, since you've got no information outside Google's own servers. Chromebooks have not seem widespread adoption thus far, but Chrome OS is also been said by analysts to be in its infancy even though it's over a year old - lots of time to grow!
This newest system called Aura Shell has Chromium looking and feeling a lot more like a "traditional" desktop system not all that unlike Windows, Linux, or OS X. This system retains its emphasis on web apps, quick boot speeds, and cloud storage, but adds the benefit of being able to access your work offline. Apps and settings appear on your desktop as well as in your browser tab with this setup, a taskbar and system tray - here called your "uber tray" are also available to have you accessing quick settings at a flash.
This Aura Shell project is not yet prepared to work on Chromebooks, working now only in a simulated environment, but the developers behind the project will be deploying the project inside the year, god willing. We'll be checking this project out further should it prove to be fruitful for sure!