Google launches 'stable' Chrome 5 for Mac

Also shifts Chrome 5 out of beta on Windows and Linux

Google today shifted the Mac version of Chrome out of beta and into what it calls a "stable" channel, meaning that it considers the browser solid enough for day-in-day-out use.

The company also did the same for both the Linux and Windows versions.

"We believe that [Chrome] provides not only the stability, performance and polish that every Mac user expects, but also a seamless native Mac application experience that Mac users will feel instantly at home with," said Mike Smith, a Chrome product manager, in an entry on Google's Mac-oriented blog.

Google debuted a beta of Chrome on the Mac in December 2009, running through several updates before today.

"Anything that Google can do to indicate that Chrome is production ready is significant," said Sheri McLeish, an analyst who covers browsers for Forrester Research. "Historically, Google has had long beta cycles, sometimes without a clear end point, so this provides some assurances, especially to enterprises, that they're driving the browser. It should give IT more confidence in Chrome."

According to Web metrics company NetApplications, Chrome across its three platforms accounted for 6.7% of all browsers used worldwide in April. McLeish said that the latest survey she had conducted put Chrome in the 8% range of enterprise browser share.

Chrome is the second-fastest browser in JavaScript rendering, lagging only behind the Norwegian browser Opera. Earlier this month, Computerworld pegged Chrome 5 as about 17% faster than Chrome 4.

Google also updated Chrome for Windows -- which has been in the stable channel since December 2008 -- to the same version number, marking the first time that all three supported platforms carry the same designation. Google maintains three separate "channels" of Chrome: a finished, stable build; a beta build; and a developer preview.

Not included in today's updates is Google's planned integration with Adobe's Flash Player. Currently, the automatic background updating that Google has been testing in beta builds is disabled by default in the stable edition. In a separate blog post, Brian Rakowski, another Chrome product manager, said that Google would switch on the feature with the final release of Flash Player 10.1.

Adobe delivered a release candidate of Flash 10.1 -- usually the last step before calling software finished -- for Windows, Mac and Linux earlier this month.

Today's stable editions of Chrome include support for several HTML5 features, such as geo-location and drag-and-drop; synchronization of browser settings to effectively "clone" Chrome on multiple machines; and the ability to use extensions when working in Chrome's "Incognito" private browsing mode.

Google also patched six security vulnerabilities in Chrome with today's stable releases. Two of the six were tagged as "high" threats, while the other four rated "medium" on Google's four-step scale. Access to information on all six vulnerabilities has been blocked by Google, which regularly locks down details until it decides that a majority of Chrome users have upgraded to the patched version.

Chrome 5 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Google's Web site. Users already running the browser will be updated automatically.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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