Google’s Chrome for Android browser could soon complete beta testing and go into general release. This move could mean an end to the “app era” for mobile devices. A capable browser tailored to Android devices could give mobile computing (at least Android mobile computing) the flexibility we associate with the wired Internet.
This would be a blow to the re-emerging walled garden model of captive consumers, along with the firms building those walled gardens. And a mobile environment more like the wired Internet could mean new freedom for midsize firms. Freedom for consumers also means freedom for firms seeking to reach those consumers.
As reported by Stephen Shankland at CNET, Google’s Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for Chrome and Apps, outlined expectations for Chrome for Android in a recent interview. The interview coincided with the release of the second beta version. According to Pichai, Chrome developers are still working on bugs and stability. But the mobile version of Google’s browser is expected to be ready for general release in “a matter of weeks.”
The initial beta version was released in February, and drew positive reviews. Chrome will be available only for Android 4.0, better known as Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). At this point few ICS phones have entered the marketplace, but Google obviously expects that to change.
Leapfrogging Apple and Facebook?
Browsers are such a familiar and established technology that we can forget their central importance in providing full access to the Internet. But the limitations of mobile-device browsers have caused the mobile environment to develop thus far in a quite different way.
The mobile world is dominated by apps. These are typically small programs that support only one activity and only on one site. This is great news for the app’s provider–the user is much less likely to click away to some other site.
Thus, apps support a walled-garden model of online experience. Apple has built its entire iGadget experience around a walled-garden model, while Facebook is promoting a walled-garden model even for the wired Internet.
With Chrome for Android, Google is challenging this walled garden and seeking to encourage full access to the open Internet, even for mobile devices.
If consumers accept this invitation, midsize firms stand to be major winners. The walled-garden model, promoted by giants like Apple and Facebook, shuts midsize firms out. At best, they can reach consumers only on terms dictated by the walled garden’s owner.
For midsize firms, an open Internet for mobile devices will open new channels that IT managers at those firms can offer to marketing and other departments seeking to interact directly with consumers, not limited by the narrow confines of apps and walled gardens.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.