A port of Google Chrome for iOS is coming, according to Macquarie Equities Research in an analysis titled “the Browser Wars Part Deux.” Macquarie compares the Chrome browser’s introduction to iOS to the historical parallel of “the browser wars,” which, if I recall correctly, was less exciting than the phrase makes it sound. (Few skirmishes, lots of links to free Firefox installs.)
Macquarie thinks that a Chrome browser on iOS would be a big deal for Google’s “strategic and operational mobile positioning.” They reason that the PC version of Chrome is successful, that having their own browser on iOS will limit Google’s TAC paid (traffic acquisition costs, how much Google pays Apple for including Google in Mobile Safari’s searches), and that Google will market the ever-loving crap out of their browser.
But this isn’t the PC’s browser war. While Google’s Chrome has a fair share of assets behind it, an iOS version would face a number of threats. Apple currently allows third party browsers on iOS, so long as they use the Webkit rendering engine (which Chrome does), but with limited functionality. On a stock iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, Apple doesn’t provide a way of changing the default browser. If you click on a link from another app, it will open in Safari. (There is a workaround for jailbreakers.) The locked-down iOS environment is a threat that Firefox and Chrome didn’t have to deal with on PC.
Chrome Beta is currently available for Android devices (running Ice Cream Sandwich) in the Google Play Store. The app seems to support different browser styles; one looks like the desktop version of Chrome, another looks like Mobile Safari. The big difference between Android’s Chrome port and Apple’s default browser is Chrome offers an intelligent omnibox for searches and direct urls, unlimited tabs, bookmark syncing, and a private browsing mode accessible in the app itself.
Would you use Chrome Beta over Mobile Safari if given the choice? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.