Web browser Chrome and the mobile OS Android are both strong Google products. And as can be expected, Chrome could one day run natively on Android. Today, web browsers on Android smartphones and tablets come from an open-source WebKit engine that is slowly being disassociated from. Google is trying to blend its Chrome and Android projects that could well portend the marriage of the two.
Google’s WebKit integrated with its Android browser promises to be helpful for Web developers, browser makers, and Android users. There’s absolutely no doubt that brand-sensitive Google would love to land its Chrome icon splashed on millions of Android smartphones.
In a mailing list message yesterday, Google’s Andrei Popescu disclosed that the company is moving forward to a “much better collaboration with the WebKit community/” as flagged by Chrome developer Peter Beverloo.
The convergence between the browser Chrome currently optimized for the Windows OS and the Android WebKit browser seems inevitable. Tablets now have a more PC-like browsing experience and Google is naturally keen on tablets with the introduction of Android v3.0 aka Honeycomb. Google TV which is based on Android also sports a Chrome branded browser.
According to Chrome project SVP Sundar Pichai, the Android browser is not based on the Chromium code which is the open-source origin of Chrome, though both share common codes. But by merging Chromium with WebKit, the barrier that Android browser presents can be overcome. He adds that Google is committed to developing a “new flavor of the Chromium port of WebKit.” Beverloo adds that the Android browser has arrived at a point where it shares so much common code with Chrome that reusing the Chromium WebKit port can be easily done.
But integrating the two may take time as it requires more than just Google’s Android browser programmers working with its Chrome programmers. It should be remembered that WebKit started as an Apple project meant to be used as an interface for Linux which involved outside developers.
One sure benefit to Google’ integrating move is having a more mature browser for mobile gadgets. Apple’s iOS-based Safari uses WebKit and so do other mobile browsers like in the new BlackBerry, Samsung Bada, as well as in HP’s ill-fated WebOS. Open source apps make sharing easy and Google’s objective is not so much to profit from its own products as to enhance the browsing experience that makes the Web even more powerful than it is today.