Google Chrome, Out of Beta. Will That Be Enough?

null Google’s Chrome browser came out of beta today. Chrome is critical to the company’s overall cloud-centric computing vision, yet after more than three months in beta, its market share remains abysmally small. So while it might be the fastest beta-to-full launch offering from Google yet, will that be enough? (Full story below the fold.)Google’s V-P of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, ruined the official coming-out party of the Chrome browser when she said yesterday that the company would soon take it out of beta. She spoke a day too soon — must be the jet lag, as she’s been in Paris attending Le Web — for the release of Chrome’s final version takes place today. And while it might be the fastest beta-to-full launch offering from Google yet, the question remains: Is that enough?

On their blog, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson talk about improvements such as more stability, better video playback performance, and massive gains in speed. The final version also has better bookmarking capability and privacy controls. What more’s, the company claims it’s developing an extension platform, along with support for Mac and Linux. It will need those versions in order to get broader adoption.

browsersDespite being available for more than three months in beta form, Chrome’s share of the browser market has remained abysmally small. According to some estimates, it has a market share of less than one percent, below Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari.

There have been some recent gains in the browser’s market share mostly because Google has been promoting the browser on its home page, according to browser tracker Net Applications’ Hitlink, even though it had “initially refused to place a one-word privacy link on their home page claiming a 28-word limit for the page.” Google Chrome is available only for Windows platform for now.

chartchromeshare2008The browser, it seems, has hit a bit of a plateau, a fact that’s reflected in its share of traffic on this blog. As you might remember, I wrote about the first one month of Chrome, noting that it had about 5.6 percent of the total traffic to GigaOM, and between 2.24 percent and 6.13 percent across our network of seven sites.

The information collected by Hitlink mirrors the plateau on Chrome’s share on GigaOM, and it seems to have actually slipped to about 5 percent. I guess Mozilla’s John Lilly was right in not worrying too much about Google.

The marginal growth in the browser’s market share is not good for Google, which needs the browser to grow as part of its overall cloud-centric computing vision. This desktop share is critical for the company if it hopes that Chrome is going to be a dominant player on mobiles and other alternative devices. Apple has shown this kind of desktop-to-mobile seamlessness (well almost) on its Safari browser.

Earlier this month, Google launched its extension framework for Chrome, which we pointed out was a way for the company to tie the browser into apps that run on Google’s App Engine. In other words, it was offering an entire ecosystem for cloud-based applications.

With the Chrome extensions, Google has made it possible for ISVs to launch ready-made niche applications for the cloud. It’s the same thing Facebook did with its API and Salesforce did with AppExchange; in Google’s case, ISVs now have a turnkey channel that can reach small businesses easily.

As we have noted time and again, Chrome is of critical importance to Google, but at its current market share, with moribund growth, the search giant isn’t going to realize many of its grand dreams anytime soon.

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