Google’s popular Chrome web browser is only available on devices running the search company’sAndroid mobile operating system right now, but that’ll change in the future, according to at least one industry analysis firm.
That firm is Macquarie (USA) Equities Research, and according to a story from GigaOM, it believes Google is gearing up to port its mobile web browser to Apple’s platform. It’s not without precedent, of course – Google has an app for a number of proprietary services on iOS, like its Google+ social network. The company also makes money from its ads on Apple’s platform through apps. In fact, Google reportedly makes more money on iOS from ads than it does on Android.
Macquarie thinks that Google pushing Chrome to iOS could help Google reduce the amount of subsidies it pays to Apple. Right now, Google pays a stipend to its rival, and in return, Apple’s Mobile Safari web browser uses Google as its search engine, rather than a competitor. That means Google’s ads end up in front of iOS users instead of, say, Microsoft’s through its search engine Bing, and that makes money for Google.
But pushing Chrome into the iTunes App Store would give users another alternative web browser to the native Mobile Safari to use to surf the web, and that app could use whatever search engine Google wants, without having to pay a subsidy to Apple. Chrome is an extremely popular browser on PCs and Macs, and even spent a day as the top browser in the world until it was overtaken again by Microsoft’s ubiquitous Internet Explorer. But the point is that millions of people use Chrome, know of Chrome, and like Chrome a lot; an iOS version of the browser would undoubtedly do well.
But then again, there are a lot of hurdles that name recognition and brand loyalty might not necessarily surpass. While Apple now allows alternative browsers on its mobile devices (originally, it would only allow its own Safari), those browsers can’t be set to be the default browser on the device. The result is that every time a user clicks a link in an email or another app, the browser that launches automatically to follow those links is Safari. Even if Chrome did see a lot of downloads, it wouldn’t necessarily get a lot of usage, and it wouldn’t necessarily take that usage from Safari.
Macquarie’s assessment is that Chrome for iOS could be approved in the App Store as soon as this quarter, but as GigaOM points out, it might be a flawed assessment to assume that success on computers is going to equate to success on mobile platforms. With the level of control that Apple maintains over its devices, coupled with the fact that Chrome really can’t ever surpass Safari’s competitive advantage with Apple’s inlayed iOS systems, it’s unlikely that the browser will really be a huge boon for Google. Certainly, if it pops up onto the App Store, it will gain some popularity and quite a few downloads. But don’t expect Apple to start changing policies to allow Google and Chrome to surpass its own proprietary offerings.