Google is reportedly thinking about cutting deals with PC makers to have its Chrome browser pre-installed on new computers, a move that could position the Internet giant to not only boost its presence in search but also put some of its branded apps - Gmail, Google Docs, Google Reader and others - in front of new users.
According to a report in The Times, Google will likely start working those deals after it pulls the "beta" label from Chrome in early 2009. Likewise, it expects to release Mac and Linux versions of the browser in the first half of next year, which positions it to be accessible by 99 percent of computers.
This could be just the thing that Google needs to help pull more users into its suite of online applications. Already, popular services like Gmail are integrated with Google's calendar, IM, voice and video communications tools. And across the tops of Google pages are links to the other properties. Chrome also comes with an application shortcut feature, which allows you to place a shortcut icon on the desktop for a quick direct launch to that application in a new browser window.
Users tend to use the default browser that's pre-installed on a new computer - which is why Microsoft's Internet Explorer has long dominated that space. Google is still working out some issues with Chrome, which is technically still in beta, and has been quiet about marketing it. But the company told The Times that, once it's in full release, the company will be pushing it harder, highlighting all of the extra features (such as the application shortcuts) that differentiates it from other browsers.
One big challenge: advanced users - the same ones that tend to use the online apps - are big fans of Mozilla's Firefox browser and seem to be happy with it. Can Google offer enough differentiating features to get those users to switch, too?