The company says it's excited by the opportunities posed by tablet computers, a hint of its Chrome OS netbooks to come.
Google on Friday joined the chorus of companies announcing applications for Apple's iPad by revealing a version of Gmail for the device.
But unlike most of the companies vying for the attention of new iPad owners, Google isn't promoting a native iPad app. Its Gmail app for the iPad is based on Gmail for mobile, a Web app that's accessed through the iPad's Safari Web browser.
"We're releasing an experimental user interface for the iPad built on the Gmail for mobile HTML5 Web app that we launched last year for the iPhone and Android devices," said Google mobile product manager Punit Soni in a blog post. "Those devices have large screens compared to other phones, and tablets like the iPad give us even more room to innovate."
Innovation isn't subject to Apple approval in Web apps, as it is in native apps, which are available only through Apple's tightly controlled iTunes Store.
Google does offer native apps for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. These include the YouTube app and the Maps app, which were developed in conjunction with Apple and are included on Apple's devices out of the box, and the Google Mobile App, which users can download from the iTunes Store.
Google however has been unable to get its Google Voice app approved because the app "appears to alter the iPhone's distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail," as Apple told the FCC last summer.
That was shortly after Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple's Board of Directors, an event that marked the beginning of the chilly relations that continue to exist between the two companies.
Despite a suspiciously public recent meeting between Schmidt and Apple CEO Steve Jobs at a Palo Alto, Calif. coffee shop, it seems the two companies have yet to resolve their differences. According to Soni's blog post, Google only had an iPad Simulator to evaluate its Web apps. Apple's favored iPad development partners received actual hardware units to test their apps, under strict security arrangements.
But relations have not gotten so bad that Apple has dumped Google for Microsoft Bing as its default search engine, or so Soni suggests. "As with Mac computers and the iPhone, you'll find Google Search in the top right corner of Safari," he says.
The tensions could get worse, however. Soni concludes his post by talking about how excited Google's mobile team is about tablet computers and about how the company's engineers are "just starting to work through how our products can become even better on devices like the iPad."
There aren't really many devices like the iPad at the moment. But there will be, running Android, Chrome OS, Linux, and Windows.
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