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10 December 2008, 16:57

Chrome is ready for prime-time, says Google exec

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Google VP Marissa Mayer said, in an interview at Le Web 08, that Google is ending the beta program for its Chrome web browser and will shortly release a 1.0 version. This is a very rapid turn-around for a company notorious for its never-ending beta cycles – Gmail, for instance, has been in beta since early 2004.

Chrome is a radical web browser based around Apple’s open source WebKit HTML rendering engine, which is in turn based on the KDE Project’s KHTML. WebKit is also the basis of various other web-related products, including Apple’s Safari, Nokia’s S60 browser and Adobe’s AIR runtime for Rich Internet Applications.

Google’s product is itself free and open source as well; the company’s main revenue stream will come from advertising revenue when users find products via the browser’s integral search function. Although the fees are individually tiny, the hundreds of millions of web surfers make them add up: the use of Firefox’s search box earned the Mozilla Foundation some $70M last year.

However, the new browser, first released just four months ago, is still quite immature – for instance, it only got a bookmarks manager at the end of November. It still has no plug-in support, something that thanks to tools like AdBlock Plus many users now consider essential. Also, although the project states that it will produce Mac and Linux versions, for now, the browser is Windows-only.

One of the chief motivations for Google’s rapid movement is that once the browser is officially a finished product, it will be much easier to arrange pre-installation deals with PC manufacturers, as discussed by Google VP for Product Management Sundar Pichai: "We will probably do distribution deals. We could work with an OEM and have them ship computers with Chrome pre-installed."

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