Test version of Google's new Chrome browser gets hard look

Google's new Web browser, Chrome, is getting good reviews since it released its test version last week.

According to Bloomberg's Grace Aquino, "It's simpler, a little faster, and less prone to crashing" than browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari. "With more than a dozen sites open, including streaming radio, Chrome was able to maintain fairly steady performance, while its rivals tended to slow down or sometimes crash my four-year-old Dell PC."

She also said she liked how it downloads files without opening a separate window, and how it can run a search directly in a Web site's own search engine, which she said is a real time-saver.

One key feature is the way it keeps your computer running even when an application freezes. Each Web site that's opened by Chrome runs as a separate browser.

Some suggest the new browser promotion is a way to get users thinking about a server-based operating system that doesn't need Windows. Chrome offers a desktop shortcut that allows you to run programs online rather than on Windows.

Steve Bass, who writes for PC World, thinks Google's long-range plan may be an operating system that rivals Microsoft's. Google Apps, which is now being sold to businesses, may eventually compete with Microsoft Office. In five years, with more and more people likely to be using reliable, fast broadband connections, having data and applications reside on servers may not seem that far-fetched.

Computerworld's Frank Hayes writes that Chrome still has some significant security problems, but adds that since the browser is in its beta stage, the problems will be addressed. However, he did urge potential users to think about the "software-as-a-service model" as well as how it compares to other browsers.

One online software vendor, Zoho, is enthusiastic about Chrome. Zoho has about 1 million users of its services, which include e-mail, documents, spreadsheets, wikis, and customer relationship management software. Zoho's Raju Vegesna says the JavaScript, a programming language that is used for many interactive Web features, runs well on Chrome.

"As JavaScript executes faster, our apps become faster with not much tweaking from our side. This is great news for all Web apps," he told IT World.

Chrome may have an uphill climb with businesses, since so many hinge their future plans on Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), said Sheri McLeish, a Forrester analyst. "There is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement over Chrome, particularly on the technical side," McLeish says in IT World. "The speed with which pages are served up is really fast. But this is a beta release. It will take some time to mature and may take some time for enterprises as they view their investments in IE."

Chrome runs only on Windows XP and Vista PCs; Mac and Linux availability is planned for the future.

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