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Google Goes After Mindshare With Chrome for Mac, Linux

Google Goes After Mindshare With Chrome for Mac, Linux

Google has finally released working beta editions of its Chrome Web browser for the Linux and Mac platforms. The download is free, though it obviously cost Google resources to put together, so what's the payout? It's about getting a foot in the door of more users' minds. Once the Chrome browser is familiar, jumping to other Google products like its upcoming Chrome OS isn't such a big stretch.

By Richard Adhikari
12/09/09 9:14 AM PT

With the release of beta versions of its Chrome browser for the Mac and Linux platforms, Google looks to be laying the groundwork for becoming a major player in the next wave of computing.

The Web browser one uses is being increasingly viewed as the next application platform, and getting the Chrome browser on more desktops could give Google strong momentum in the arena.

Google has been behind schedule in launching the Mac version of its Chrome browser, product manager Brian Rakowski acknowledged on the Google blog.

Chrome Browser for Mac, Linux

Google Chrome is a native application for the Mac. Google will add missing features, such as extensions, bookmark sync, book manager and cookie manager in future versions, the Internet search giant said.

The Linux version of the Chrome browser focuses on speed, stability and security and integrates tightly with native GTK themes. Further, its updates are managed by the standard system package manager.

GTK, or Gimp Toolkit, is a cross-platform widget toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces. It is free software. Google had lots of help from the open source community, especially with the Linux version of Google Chrome, Rakowski said.

The Linux version of Google's Chrome browser works with Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSuse.

About Return on Investment

Google's Chrome browser is free, and porting it to additional operating systems such as Mac and Linux costs time and money. So how's it going to get its money back?

For one thing, porting the browser to additional operating systems paves the way for Google to push its upcoming Chrome operating system. "It makes things easier for Google to push the operating system if the Chrome browser has a lot of mindshare first," Carl Howe, the Yankee Group's director of anywhere consumer research, told the E-Commerce Times.

Porting the browser to Linux will also open the door for Google to work with smart devices such as refrigerators or photo frames connected to the Internet. "Linux is the base for many non-PC devices, so having the Chrome browser available on Linux would make it easier to build an Internet-connected device," Nick Dalton, chief technology officer at Pervasent, told the E-Commerce Times.

Running on smart devices could in turn help boost adoption of the Chrome OS later. "The key to thinking about the Chrome OS initiative is that it's not designed as a PC replacement, but for devices such as netbooks or refrigerators connected to the Internet," Howe explained. "It's the ideal operating system to build into a device where you want a rich consumer experience but don't want to pay for a full PC."

The return on investment for porting the Chrome browser to the Mac is not so clear. "Maybe they're hoping to build a viable browser alternative on the mythical iTablet," Dalton said. "Or maybe they're just trying to satisfy a very vocal group of users." Apple is reported to be working on a tablet computer that will be released in early 2010.

The Browser as the Platform

The browser is emerging as an application development platform as we become increasingly interconnected through the Web and move to a Web 3.0 world.

For example, IBM's Opus Una project uses the browser as an application platform. The application developed for the project lets users collaborate through audio and video using PCs equipped with cameras and microphones and standard phone lines.

"Google feels strongly that the Chrome browser will enable more sophisticated Web apps, which will lead to more time spent inside the browser," Pervasent's Dalton said.

The Chrome browser is gaining ground -- Statcounter's results for the last five months shows it has overtaken Safari and Opera, although it trails Firefox and market leader Internet Explorer.


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