Google launches Chrome, Windows download now available

But Mac and Linux users have to wait their turn

Google Inc. launched its own Web browser today, ending years of speculation that the search giant would stake a claim in the browser market.

The company posted its new browser, known as Chrome, to its Web site shortly before 3 p.m. Eastern time, just over 24 hours after it sparked a whirlwind of interest Monday by confirming that it would compete against companies such as Microsoft Corp., Mozilla Corp. and Apple Inc., all of which distribute browsers of their own.

Chrome, which is still in beta, is only available in a version that runs under Windows XP or Windows Vista. Yesterday, however, a pair of Google executives, Pundar Pichai, the company's vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, director of engineering, said that developers are working on versions for both Mac OS X and Linux. Pichai and Upson did not offer a timeline for the release of additional editions.

The download page sports a link to a form where users who want to be notified when the Mac version is done can enter their e-mail addresses. There was no similar link for users interested in a Linux edition.

On the download page, Google has touted Chrome as "a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the Web faster, safer and easier."

More information about Chrome can be found on the Google Web site, which offers up short video clips of the browser's main features.

Chrome will compete against established browsers including Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari and Opera Software ASA's namesake browser.

According to Web metrics vendor Net Applications Inc., IE accounted for 72.2% of the browsers used last month, while Firefox and Safari owned 19.7% and 6.4% of the market, respectively. Opera, meanwhile, accounted for less than 1% of the browser market in August.

A screen shot of the new Google browser for Windows
Google Chrome's new tab screen shows thumbnails of the most visited sites for easy selection.
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