For years, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) watchers have wondered why the company has used a unique browser on its Android software while maintaining a separate browser project in Chrome. Those days are over: Google has released a beta version of Chrome for Android, uniting two very important projects and raising questions about the future of Chrome OS.
Google announced the new browser in a blog post Tuesday. It’s available only for Android devices running Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich.
Ever since Android was released Google has used a different code base for the browser at the heart of Android, although both Android’s browser and Chrome are based on the Webkit open-source platform that powers almost all mobile browsers these days. But Android’s browser was not considered as agile or stable as others in the Webkit family, while Google’s Chrome browser has been steadily winning converts on the PC.
It will probably take a while before Chrome on Android turns into the default browser, however, given the beta nature of the product and the fact that virtually everyone using Android is running an older version of the operating system. In an interview with AllThingsD, Chrome leader Sundar Pichai confirmed that Chrome will take over as the default browser on Android eventually.
That could mean trouble for companies like MoboTap, which develops the Dolphin browser as an Android browsing alternative. The majority of Dolphin users are on Android, and they’re the type of users that want a more powerful and stable browser: something that Chrome for Android might provide.
So what now becomes of Chrome OS, Google’s bid to redefine the computer as existing entirely within the browser? Google didn’t comment on that project in a few of the interviews it granted to discuss Chrome for Android, but Chrome OS has been a clear disappointment ever since it was announced, with very few people adopting Chromebooks as interest in the netbook concept has plummeted alongside rising interest in tablets.
Here’s a video explaining the features of the new browser: