The full scope of Google's mobile ambitions came into focus with last week's debut of the web services giant's new browser, dubbed Chrome. With its streamlined user interface, efficent search tools and multiprocess architecture, the WebKit-based Chrome has received largely positive reviews from pundits and consumers alike, claiming 1 percent of the worldwide browser market in the first four days after its release. While Chrome is currently optimized solely for the wired web, Google co-founder Sergey Brin anticipates the browser will soon migrate to the fledgling Android mobile OS as well: Speaking last week at the Chrome launch event, Brin said Chrome and Android were developed independently of each other, but with both projects now public, their paths will likely converge. "We have not wanted to bind one's hands to the other's," Brin said. "Probably a subsequent version of Android is going to pick up a lot of the Chrome stack."
A superior browser is essential to Google's ambitions to dominate mobile search and advertising--during a recent appearance on CNBC's Mad Money, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said he believes mobile ad revenues will eventually outstrip traditional web advertising. "Over time we will make more money from mobile advertising," Schmidt told Mad Money host Jim Cramer. "Not now, but over time." According to Schmidt, Google has no intention of opening up its home page to advertising, instead pinning its revenue hopes on the mobile platform and its ability to personalize ad content. But striking it rich in mobile hinges on the effectiveness of Android as a whole, not just its browser--while the first Android-based device, the HTC Dream, probably won't feature Chrome, the handset will be the first true test of whether Google can be the mobile force it aspires to be.
There are few concerns about Apple's iPhone, however. The iPhone now accounts for one out of every 333 web hits worldwide according to market analysis firm Net Applications, which notes that the device's Internet presence reached new heights in the weeks following the iPhone 3G's July 11 retail release. Net Applications reports that iPhone web browsing leveled off prior to the 3G version's commercial debut, with its international web usage market share passing the 0.2 percent mark in June before dipping over the next month--however, iPhone global web usage increased 58 percent between July and August, peaking at a record-high 0.48 percent on August 23. As of last month, the iPhone is now the fourth most popular operating system on the web with a 0.30 percent market share, behind Windows (90.69 percent), Mac OS (7.84 percent) and Linux (0.92 percent). The commercial viability of the mobile web is no longer in doubt--the question now is who will dominate it. -Jason