In the last year Google has lost more than half its equity value, most of that in the last six months.
I think this explains why Google ripped the "beta" label off Chrome 0.3 yesterday, pronouncing the new version 1.0.
The key lies in the build number, 154. Very few revisions since 0.3. (I think the first public version was build 129.) This was not a technical decision, but a business one.
Google can no longer frighten, bribe or buy competitors with its stock. Even its internal stock option plan threatens to become a dilution of value for everyone.
It must grow through revenues. It must find another way toward profit other than advertising, which is shrinking for everyone.
Making Chrome gold means it can be pre-installed on PCs from major OEMs. The Dell deal on its toolbar expires next month. Negotiations must already be underway.
Is the company out of its mind? No, but it is taking on risk. When beta code blows up we reflexively forgive it. When a product goes gold it's expected to work and play well with other software.
I believed the earliest releases of Chrome were nifty, and the .3 release seems to have solved most problems with common plug-ins like Flash.
But is this code ready for attack by the world's best hackers, who have been increasingly laying seige to Google's other features, including GMail?
So I think there are fingers crossed all over the Googleplex this morning, and I've got a Christmas wish for them too.
I sure hope they've scaled up the Chrome team to deal with what comes next. Google has put a big target on its back here, and every gunslinger in the world is going to be working to take them down.