Google I/O Day 2: Chrome Hits iOS, IaaS Play

Google Compute Engine is an infrastructure-as-a-service offering that competes with Amazon Web Services, while Chrome browser is now used by 310 million people, execs said at Google I/O.
New Chromebook: A Visual Tour
New Chromebook: A Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
At its annual developer conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Google announced the availability of its Chrome browser for iOS devices, a Google Drive app for iOS, Google Drive integration in Chrome OS, and the ability to edit Google Docs files offline.

Google also introduced Google Compute Engine, an infrastructure-as-a-service offering that competes with Amazon Web Services EC2. Urs Holzle, SVP of technical infrastructure, said Google Compute Engine delivers "50% more compute per dollar than other cloud providers," presumably in reference to Amazon and Microsoft Windows Azure.

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible, but its "... journey is to help you all live online in the cloud, seamlessly," said Sundar Pichai, SVP of Chrome and Apps.

Google continued its literal life in the clouds, repeating Wednesday's skydiving and bike stunts on the roof of the convention center where Google I/O is being held, captured on video through the company's experimental augmented reality glasses, known as Project Glass.

[ Want to see what happened during Day 1 of Google I/O? View Google I/O: 10 Awesome Visions. ]

A video depicting the three-and-a half year history of Chrome offered conference attendees a reminder of how far Google's browser has come and how rapidly the company has pushed Web standards.

Google Chrome is now used by over 310 million people worldwide, according to Pichai, up from 70 million two years ago. "Chrome is the most popular browser in the world globally," he said.

No metrics were offered by which the popularity of Chrome OS could be judged. Google announced the first commercially available Chrome OS hardware at Google I/O 2011.

One positive sign is that Google will be offering its Chrome OS hardware, Chromebooks, through more than 100 Best Buy stores in the U.S. Recent Chromebook models have only been available through retailers' online stores.

Google did provide an update on the number of businesses adopting its services. The consumerization of technology "has been so powerful, many many businesses are going Google," said Pichai, noting that more than 5 million businesses have adopted Google's Web applications. That's up from 4 million in September 2011.

Chrome's market share is growing even faster and should continue to grow, now that Chrome is available on iOS devices, albeit without support for add-ons like Adblock Plus.

Mozilla, which recently released a revised version of Firefox for Android, will have to hurry up and decide whether to adopt the open-source WebKit rendering engine Apple requires for iOS browsers. Ceding the iOS market to Apple, Google, and other third-party browser makers will only hinder Mozilla's mission to advance the open Web.

But Chrome's value proposition has become more than its strengths as a browser. Chrome has become a comfortable, common UI that works across mobile and desktop devices and across operating systems. Used in conjunction with other Google services, like Google Drive and Google Apps, the distinction between Chrome the browser and Chrome the operating system is insignificant.

Chrome is also obligatory if you want to edit Google Docs offline. This newly announced capability currently works only with Chrome or Chrome OS.

Google's campaign to bring Web apps up to the level of native apps may be going well, but there's still work to be done. Pichai said Google is working on a way to package Web apps to run locally, enhance the user experience, and expanded device access capabilities.

At Google I/O in 2009, Google SVP Vic Gundotra (then VP of engineering) said, "the Web has won." In 2012. Pichai's translation of that message might be interpreted as Chrome is winning.

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