Google touts pending debut of Chrome on Windows 8 Metro

Looks like it will beat Firefox to Metro with next Dev channel release

Google on Thursday announced it would soon release a preview of its Chrome browser capable of running in the Windows 8 Metro environment.

Chrome will be the first non-Microsoft browser to appear in Metro.

The company did not set a release date for the preview, saying in a post to the Chromium blog only that it would appear in "the next Chrome Dev channel release."

Google operates multiple "channels," or versions of Chrome, with escalating levels of stability and reliability. The least stable and earliest public build is dubbed "Dev;" others include "Beta" and "Stable." The last is Google's equivalent for a final, production-grade version.

When questioned later on Thursday, a Google spokeswoman declined to offer a specific date, saying, "It's hard to provide precise timing."

The Dev channel of Chrome is now on version 21, which it first reached May 21. But because Google updates each version on the Dev line multiple times -- nine for Chrome 20 between April 10 and May 17, for instance -- the Metro-ized Chrome could easily appear within the next week.

The browser will run in both Windows 8's traditional x86/64 "desktop" mode -- which sports a user interface (UI) very similar to Windows 7's -- and in the tablet- and touch-centric "Metro" mode, where programs are called "apps" and run in a full-screen, or at best, split view.

Under Microsoft's rules, a browser must be selected by the user as the operating system's default browser to run in Metro.

Carlos Pizano, who listed his title as "software engineer and Metro gnome," warned that the first Metro version of Chrome is unfinished.

"The initial releases of Chrome in Metro mode will include integration with the basic Windows 8 system functionality, such as charms and snap view," wrote Pizano. "Over the next few months, we'll be smoothing out the UI on Metro and improving touch support."

Chrome for Metro
Chrome in Metro on Windows 8 doesn't look much different than the minimalist design Google uses on the desktop. (Image: Google.)

He did not give an estimate on when Google would add the Metro browser to the beta or stable builds.

Google first acknowledged that it was working on a Windows 8-specific version of Chrome in mid-March, about a month after rival Mozilla said the same about its Firefox browser. But while Mozilla has provided several updates on its Metro progress, until now, Google has been silent on the subject.

Microsoft has allowed other browser makers to access the desktop's Win32 APIs (application programming interfaces) from within Metro, in effect leveling the playing field on Windows 8.

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