Analyst Says Google Chrome Is Coming to iOS

Jay Yarow, regarding a report by analyst Ben Schacter claiming that a version of Chrome for iOS is imminent:

Google is currently paying Apple an estimated 50%-60% revenue share for searches done through the Safari search box, says Schacter. So, if there is $1 billion in gross search revenue from iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches, Apple gets $600 million, Google only gets $400 million. By cutting out Safari, and owning all the searches, Google gets to keep all of the revenue it generates.

I wonder if this is true. I know that Apple gets money from Google for searches conducted through Safari’s search field, but is it feasible for it to be a revenue share? How would Apple verify the prices paid by the advertisers?

The catch for Google is that Apple doesn’t allow third-party applications like Chrome to act as defaults. So, if you click on a link in an email it will take you mobile Safari by default instead of Chrome.

The other catch is that the App Store rules don’t allow third-party software runtimes. Yes, Chrome for the desktop is based on WebKit, but it’s Google’s own fork of WebKit, and Google’s own JavaScript engine. Chrome for iOS would have to use iOS’s system standard WebKit, and the slower non-Nitro JavaScript engine.

Update: To be clear, I’m not saying these limitations would prevent Google from making a good version of Chrome for iOS. They could compete on features alone — bookmark and tab syncing with desktop Chrome, for example — and build a compelling Safari rival.

However, as Schacter says, this could be the second wave of browser wars. Microsoft was hammered in the late nineties by the government for making IE the default browser on Windows, and thus marginalizing the then dominant Netscape browser. If Apple is going to follow the same playbook, the government too might follow the same playbook and come after Apple. And don’t forget, Google has been active in D.C. making friends, while Apple has has largely given D.C. a cold shoulder.

There are good security reasons for Apple’s ban on third-party runtimes and disallowing marking memory as executable (which is why App Store apps don’t get the Nitro JavaScript engine). But I can’t think of a good reason why iOS users can’t specify third-party apps to be their default web browser (or email client, or calendar).

Tuesday, 15 May 2012