Analysts: How is Chrome tied to Android?


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FOTW - Google Chrome 0.2Although Google's Chrome is designed for PC environments, the newly unveiled Web browser is closely allied with Google's strategy to take greater control of the mobile Web environment through Android, in the view of some industry analysts.

In a press conference today, Google officials said that although the Android team has developed its own browser for mobile phones, it will indeed use two of the same technologies currently employed by Chrome: Webkit, a rendering engine also used in Apple's Safari browser; and V8, the JavaScript virtual machine.

"[Chrome and Google] share the underlying rendering engine; [they] share a lot of code as well. But given that the desktop user experience is very different from the mobile user experience, the Android team is focused on optimizing it for the mobile user experience," said Sundar Pichai, Google's VP of product development, speaking at the press conference.

In an interview with BetaNews earlier today, Matt Rosoff, lead analyst with Directions on Microsoft, maintained that it's only in Google's best interests to try to drive Web-based applications for both desktop and mobile platforms.

"With Chrome [and Android], Google wants to make sure it can control the user experience in much the same way that Apple is doing so with its Safari browser. There are already Web sites which are tailored to Safari," Rosoff told BetaNews.

Although Windows still dominates the PC space as the dominant operating system, he said, even Microsoft is recognizing the growing importance of the Web as an applications environment, with the development of hybrid applications such as LiveMail and Live Photo Gallery for consumers, and business-oriented "thick client" online offerings in Microsoft's CRM and SharePoint families.

The analyst suggested, however, that in the mobile device space, there isn't the same tradition of OS as overriding application environment, so that Google won't necessarily need to play a catch-up game to Windows and Internet Explorer.

"[The browser is also] a critical piece of Google's strategy for Android," concurred Carmi Levy, senior vice president of strategic consulting at AR Communications.

"Google doesn't expect that Chrome will knock off IE on the desktop. In the mobile environment, though, Google has a much better shot at establishing itself. [With Android], Google wants to make sure that it doesn't get steamrollered by Microsoft," Levy maintained.

Also on the competitive side, Chrome is aimed at speeding up users' ability to use dynamic Web applications served by Google, said Larry Page, Google co-founder, during the press conference. And the sharing of code between Chrome and Android's mobile browser ought to help accelerate development of both environments for Google as well.

The two analysts interviewed by BetaNews today also took issue with the contentions of some financial pundits that Google is introducing its own browser right now largely to prevent Microsoft and other competitors from interfering with the cookies used by its online advertising network partners.

In that vein, Jeff Lindsay, a Bernstein analyst, has highlighted the advent of a "privacy" mode in Microsoft's new IE8.

"While we think the ability to browse privately is both a welcome development and also a feature of Chrome, we think that it signaled a long-expected threat that Microsoft or Apple could 'mess with the cookies' that are critical to the functioning of the online advertising network/exchanges such as DoubleClick. By developing its own browser, Google can simply eliminate that threat," Lindsay wrote recently.

Chrome will have its own privacy feature called "Incognito" similar to that in IE8, which BetaNews has also been discovering in its own tests. As Google developers pointed out this afternoon, although that feature will prevent the browser from keeping a permanent record of its user's browsing session -- very similarly to IE8's "InPrivate" feature -- it will not prevent the browser from communicating with Web sites including Google, and especially with regard to the exchange of cookies.

Yet Directions on Microsoft's Rosoff predicted that a lot of consumers probably won't bother to use such features, anyway.

Levy indicated that he sees Chrome's privacy feature mainly as one of Google's ways of making a competitive mark with its browser offering. "Google is trying to match IE and other browsers on a feature-by-feature basis," the AR Communications analyst told BetaNews.

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