Google Chrome is a mixed bag for Apple

Google's release of its new browser, dubbed 'Chrome' today is an interesting bag for us Apple users. Firstly, unless we want to use it in a Virtual Machine, it doesn't work on our OS. It only works on Windows XP/Vista at the moment, although it is promised for Mac (and Linux) at a later date.

Secondly, it is based on of the same Webkit framework that Apple had long ago adopted for its Safari browser. Webkit evolved from the Open Source Konquerer KHTML engine. Both Safari (mostly) and Chrome are Open Source so the opportunity for both to share and benefit one another are there. Additionally, with more Webkit based browsers running around, web designers will be forced to make sure their pages work with Webkit. Already, Adobe's Air platform and Nokia's Symbian browser use Webkit so the footprint is obviously big, getting bigger.

But why would Google want its own browser when so many more are already out there?

This is where the situation gets a little murky for Apple fans. Where's the need for Google to enter the already crowded browser market?

There is no question the Google Chrome is in direct competition with Safari, both on Mac and on Windows, for marketshare. Since Safari doesn't compete on Linux, Chrome is competing against Konquerer on that platform. Obviously, there are things that Google wants that Safari can't do and this was the reason for creating Chrome.

But what can Google do with Chrome that it can't with Safari - or Firefox or Opera or IE for that matter? I think it is mostly about the Offline experience.

Gears is Google's offline browser plug-in that allows you to take Google content offline. Google Gears is in competition with Adobe Air and Microsoft Silverlight to take web apps offline. Just recently, Google released a beta of Gears for Safari. But perhaps Safari isn't handling Gears as well as Google would like?

Will support for Safari wane as Chrome takes hold? Will popular applications like Gmail perform much better in Chrome than Safari? Or, perhaps, new features like Gears for Gmail won't even work in Safari but will work in Chrome, forcing users who want that feature to download and use Chrome. This sounds like Microsoft's tactics in getting people to switch from Netscape to IE. Let's hope Google doesn't go there - they have given no indication that they would.

Google Chrome portable edition (look at the logo - get it?  huh?

Also, Chrome will likely be the basis for the browser on the Android platform (we already knew it was Webkit based). Android-based smartphones will go up against iPhone in many markets and the strength of the browser will be a determining factor in whether or not people adopt the platform. Good for choice...bad for Apple..

With all of this in mind, I installed Chrome on my VMWare partition which is running XP. It really is a great application that is pushing the envelope for clean, functional Web browsers. As of now I am a big fan. I am just hoping Google chooses to remain "not evil" and tries to support all browsers equally with their web applications.

Update: Their EULA looks scarrryyyyy!

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