The forthcoming Chrome browser for Android is a good move for Google as it attempts to shakes off extreme competition from Apple's iPhone/iPad, disappointing sales of Android tablets and worries about fragmentation of its two most popular open source projects.
On Tuesday, Google showed off a preview of the new Chrome browser for its latest mobile phone operating system, Android 4.0, which debuted last quarter. Google will not say when the browser update for Android 4.0 will appear.
What does it have? Much of what the desktop version has, notably an Omnibox for searching, seamless sign-in and sync of bookmarks and data, a toolbar with direct access to search, navigation and tabs, unimited tabs, support for many HTML5 features for enhanced web experience and remote debugging of web sites.
The developer opined in an online company video, the enhanced Chrome browser for Android on smartphones and tablets is designed from the ground up as a multiprocessor browser and is no "Chrome Lite.
The multiprocessor architecture of the browser allows for significant performance, navigation and simplicity of web computing. It has, for example, support for unlimited tabs and a web pages stack for organization on a small screen.It also has excellent syncing capabilities with the desktop edition.
"You can flip or swipe between an unlimited number of tabs using intuitive gestures, as if you’re holding a deck of cards in the palm of your hands, each one a new window to the web," said one Google blog about the preview Chrome browser for Android on Feb 7. "Seamless sign-in and sync so you can take your personalized web browsing experience with you wherever you go, across devices."
Key new mobile oriented features include font boosting for better viewing of text on small devices and Link Preview, which zooms in on keyword links, especially if they are tightly snug on a page, and displays them in a translucent sidebar.
The Chrome browser also offers "incognito mode for private browsing and fine-grained privacy options (tap menu icon, ‘Settings,’ and then ‘Privacy’) and:
View open tabs: Access the tabs you left open on your computer (also signed into Chrome)—picking up exactly where you left off.
Get smarter suggestions: If you visit a site often on your computer, you'll also get an autocomplete suggestion for it on your mobile device, so you can spend less time typing.
Marrying the two projects is a no-brainer from a marketing point of view. Chrome is among the top web browsers and Google's other top open source project -- Android -- has been a big hit on the smartphone.
The move unifies the code base and rationalizes two of the company's open source projects that competed directly in some instances. ChromeOS (with Chrome browser) and Android with its own nondescript web browser were both designed for tablets.
Has this hurt Google's tablet aspirations? I don't know, but I'd much rather have one horse to bet on to compete against Apple's astronomically successful iPad.
Product consolidation is good for Google. The debut of Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, for both the tablet and smartphone last quarter, was another good move to stop fears about fragmentation. Previously, Google had two different Android code bases for its smartphone and laptop.The emergence of a clear winner will send a strong signal to OEMs which Google tablet OS to back and to consumers which tablets to buy.
The only big problem is product delivery, it seems. To date, one a handful of OEMs have delivered Android 4.0 smartphones -- including the Nexus Galaxy -- and Motorola's next-generation of ICS-based Droids is only promised for sometime in the first half of 2012.
Are Google and Motorola awaiting word from the government on their proposed merger before launching ICS devices?
"Ice Cream Sandwich brings an entirely new look and feel to Android. It has a redesigned user interface with improved multi-tasking, notifications, Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC support and a full web browsing experience. With Ice Cream Sandwich, Android has been rethought and redesigned to be simple, beautiful and useful," one Motorola exec said in a blog. "Ice Cream Sandwich introduces innovations such as Face Unlock to unlock your phone, a Data Manager to control your network data usage, and advanced multimedia and imaging features. Ice Cream Sandwich also provides developers with new APIs, unified U.I for phones and Tablets, and improved performance by enabling developers to leverage hardware graphic acceleration."
One Verizon spokesman could not say when the update will be available for a handful of existing smartphones.
"We don’t have an timeframe at this moment for Ice Cream Sandwich but so far to my knowledge the following devices will get the Ice Cream Sandwich update: Droid Bionic, Droid Razr, HTC Rezound, Spectrum by LG, Droid Xyboard, Motorola Xoom and Droid 4," said Motorola Mobility spokesman Albert Aydin.