Key to this is Google’s aim to offer users the same web, everywhere. Pichar
concedes that smaller screens will sometimes need different experiences, but
he says that phones, tablets and computers should all know who is using them
and what they want to do. “A lot of what we take for granted for the desktop
is not available on a phone,” he argues.
Chrome’s key new features make the tabbed browsing that is familiar to desktop
users possible on a mobile – Pichai likens the experience to a “stack of
cards” in your hand, as well as offering a new private mode that doesn’t
record what sites you’ve visited in your browsing history. Improved
integration with desktop versions mean that the browser can replicate the
same tabs you have open on your main computer.
There remain two surprising problems for Chrome, however. When Android first
launched, one of its key-selling points was that it could display websites
that used the Adobe Flash programming language, unlike Apple’s
iPhone. Pichai confirms that Chrome for Android will not be able to do that –
Apple, Google and Adobe themselves have all abandoned the language. “There
is a Flash transition period,” Pichai concedes, “but I think we will be OK.”
The second issue is also one of transition: although there are now more than
250million Android devices worldwide, just one per cent of them can run
Chrome, because it is only available for the latest version, codenamed Ice
Cream Sandwich. As customers and manufacturers upgrade, that problem too
should solve itself; more than 700,000 new devices are now being activated
each day. But it underlines what remains a problem for Google – as some
phones become incredibly powerful, many others that run Android are not in
the same league.
Pichai is relaxed – Google has a financial interest in Chrome doing well, and
is putting the resources behind making that happen. “People use search
inside a browser,” he explains. “We have always been very fortunate at
Google that if we focus on the user, say by improving the speed of our
browser, we do well from a revenue point of view because of the
He claims that “By blurring the lines between the web and the mobile web we
are pushing the boundaries”. The ultimate aim, he says, is to have Chrome
running across laptop, PC, tablet and phone. “I don’t think any of us have
fully internalised the changes that will come with using the web at a very
large scale and with touch,” Pichai says.
There’s even a hint that Chrome may yet come to the rival iPhone: when asked
directly, Pichai won’t say no. “We are focussed on getting Chrome for
Android” – Google wants users to take its experience everywhere, the web is
getting ever more important – and Apple’s response will be fascinating.