RealTime IT News

Google Gearing Up to Leverage Chrome

Google's Sundar Puchi
Google's Sundar Puchi
Photo: David Needle
SAN FRANCISCO -- Many were surprised when Google chose to enter the browser wars with Chrome, and perhaps more surprised later when the search giant announced plans to bring the Web-based Chrome operating system to the market next year.

But the company's reasoning is all very logical, according to Google's vice president of product management Sundar Puchi.

"Today, a browser is a bolted-on icon on top of the operating system. We really want to flip that around," Puchi said here at the wrap-up day of the Web 2.0 Summit.

"With Chrome OS, Chrome is at the center of your experience so as a user you don't load or maintain software," he added. Puchi compared current PC software maintenance to having to tune your car every thousand miles. "Consumers wouldn't accept that," he said.

Puchi said that he and his colleagues at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) typically use browser-based Web apps like Gmail so they never have to access any applications stored natively on the device.

Google's new Chrome browser only has a single-digit share of the market, but is picking up steam. Puchi said Chrome now has more than 30 million "active" users. The No. 2 player, Mozilla's Firefox, claimed 90 million active users in May. Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Internet Explorer leads the pack by a wide margin.

Puchi said Google expects Chrome OS to let users to run Web applications as they move from desktop to portable computers without having to worry if applications are pre-installed. "Netbooks are very mobile personal computers that people want to take on the go," said Puchi. "There's lot of innovation on the semiconductor front that will allow people to carry them all day" without running out of battery power.

Online, offline access inevitable

Google has also started to offer the ability to run its Google Apps in offline mode, and Puchi thinks most other players will follow suit as more browser-based apps come out. "You will see offline access in (Apple's) Safari and others. We would love to have these capabilities in (Microsoft's) IE because that would help everyone."

While Puchi emphasized recent progress, his on-stage interviewer, Tim O'Reilly, noted that browser-based apps have been talked about since at least 1995 when Netscape was in its heyday.

"It takes time," Puchi agreed. "In an ideal world, as I see it, Google would like to see everything run in a browser and for that we need to do everything native applications can do. It's an evolution. Things like 3D graphics are hard, but the trend has been going in the right direction for a long time, so I'm optimistic."