Game on: Google releases Metro-style Windows 8 browser

Game on: Google releases Metro-style Windows 8 browser

Summary: Google officially shipped the first non-Microsoft browser for Windows 8 today. It's a test release, and it's noteworthy precisely because it doesn't follow any of the Metro design conventions, as IE does. But will Chrome fans really care?

TOPICS: Browser

As promised, Google released its first stab at a Metro style enabled desktop browser for Windows 8 this week.

The new code appeared late this afternoon and is available as an automatic update on the Dev channel.

To unlock the Metro style browser, you have to be running the Windows 8 Release Preview and you need to set Chrome as the default browser. Doing so changes the Chrome icon on the Start screen, as shown here:

It’s obvious from this first attempt that Google either hasn’t studied the Metro design guidelines or has studiously ignored them.

In its Metro personality, Chrome 21.0.1171.0 doesn’t use any Metro style conventions: right-clicking or pressing Windows key+Z should reveal the App bar at the bottom of the screen, where app-specific commands reside. Google has decided instead to replicate its browser menu in the Metro container.

Right-clicking elsewhere on a web page results in more context menus. That's business as usual for desktop programs but a deviation from Metro design guidelines.

In its announcement last week, Google promised that the first Metro release would "include integration with basic Windows 8 functionality, such as charms and snap view." This build technically delivers on that promise, but the word basic is key. You can use the Settings charm, for example, but all of the Chrome-specific options simply open settings pages or dialogs in the browser.

A few Windows 8-specific options didn't work until after I had signed out and then signed back in after installing the new Chrome. The Search charm, for example, appeared to allow the Windows 8 search interface to work with the Metro-style Chrome, but on my test system clicking the Search button did nothing until after I signed in for a new session.

The new build resembles Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in one key respect: the new Chrome supports Flash playback, with Flash Player available using the built-in Flash code that’s part of Chrome. Unlike IE 10, Flash playback in Chrome isn’t limited to sites that are on a managed whitelist. Flash content—even in ads—will apparently play back from any site.

If this were a pure Metro app, Google would have to deliver it through the Windows Store, where Microsoft could presumably veto it for its design transgressions. But "Metro Style enabled desktop browsers" are a special type of hybrid app; because the code is delivered through external channels, Microsoft has no ability to give it a thumbs down.

Windows 8 designers will probably be annoyed by this deviation from what a Metro app is supposed to be. Google has promised that it will be "smoothing out the UI on Metro and improving touch support" over the next few months. Chrome fans, however, might not care. The new Chrome has a multi-tabbed interface and looks sufficiently like its desktop counterpart that it’s likely to win a big thumbs up precisely because it’s not Metro-ized.

See also:

Topic: Browser

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Hmmm desktop clone?

    Seems very lazy to me. I love the Chrome browser on the desktop, however if this is simply a desktop clone and not enhanced for touch - it seems a pointless exercise.

    I am hoping this is just the beginning and many more alterations will occur that will take advantage of Metro in time to come.
    James Woodcock
    • Same holds true for Win8

      Since a desktop is not enhanced for touch the Metro interface is a pointless exercise.
      • Not true.

        The mouse IS dying. Touch pads are on the rise, and alternatives to mice (like that new hand tracker that's coming out this summer) are designed fer touch. Tests indicate that they are MUCH FASTER and more intuitive than the mouse. And their gesture support mean that having OS-level implementation of touch could be huge.

        People can keep screaming that Metro is terrible, but it's been around (from Microsoft, under the same name) for 17 years. And when it came out, people loved it.

        Also, don't you think Microsoft has looked into this? Don't you think that they know they have a market? The Windows Phone and Win8 tablet market is huge. The desktop (and even laptop) is on the decline. They are setting up for a huge paradigm shift. Stop whining.
    • Windows Z key for App Bar Menu? Is that touch?

      And where /how on earth did MS come up with a Windows Z key combination?
      • probably because they are close to each other and can be easily

        pressed with the left hand. Of course the undo CTRL+Z combination is right there too. I see potential for accidents by clumsy fingers when trying to activate the app bar.
    • It is lazy and since you can put the Windows 7 version of Chrome ...

      ... on the Windows 8 Desktop, what's the point?
      M Wagner
    • My thoughts too glidem

      My thoughts too glidem. I like that it has proper tabs (they're just better than the IE10 tabs approach) but otherwise, frankly it looks like a sloppy mess. It doesn't even have a proper Metro icon.

      It's a good job it's a very early beta.
  • C'mon Google...

    Quit being sour patch and do things right. You wanna make a Metro side app? Then please follw proper design guidelines.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • The obviously don't see Metro as the future...

      I expect a lot of software vendors targeting Windows 8 will follow the exact same paradigm. Their allegience is to their user base, not the OS vendor. If their user base decides they like the Metro specification in action, they'll prompt Google to adjust. Doing things "right" as you call it means doing things how your customers want them done.
      • Not exactly

        If they want their app in the store, it'll have to follow Metro design guidelines, or it'll be rejected by Microsoft.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Why should they...Microsoft doesn't play by its rules either.....

      Both IE and Office apps are not written to Metro guidelines either. Since Chrome has to compete with IE directly, why should Chrome have to handicapped to Metro guidelines if IE is not? Google Chrome is playing to the same rules that IE is written to....none. If had an office app or browser app, as long as Microsoft doesn't follow its own rules, I wouldn't either.
      linux for me
      • How are they not following the metro guidelines?

        Please elaborate.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • How is IE not following the Metro guidlines?

        To be fair, Office is a tricky one to pull off. It's a massive package and also must work with Windows 7 (probably Vista) too.
  • Par for the course

    Google doesn't follow their own design guidelines. Why would they follow Microsoft's?
    • An awesome observation

      You sir, deserve a medal.
    • Another possibility

      however might be for people to experience the chrome browser immersively like the chrome os, so more people would feel comfortable and prepared for any change to chrome os
      other *
  • hmmm

    - will developers be able to avoid the Windows Store as long as their x86 application includes a Metro version of the app? or are browsers the only apps with this capability?

    - oddly, a few features didn't work until I restarted my pc.

    - there's a "show notifications" toggle under the Settings Charm for Chrome (and in the PC Settings)--anyone know what notifications can be displayed?
    • Browsers only

      This option is not available for any other class of app.
      Ed Bott
      • I'll say it again

        Windows 8 comes across as a Operating system that is a Jack of all Trades and a master of NONE ....... it's is a toy operating system that will never function in a business environment .....mark my word's
        Over and Out
  • Ugh

    At least Firefox tries to make a good Metro UI. This is just awful.
    Jeff Kibuule