Google’s launch of its own web browser called Chrome has been viewed as a direct challenge to Microsoft’s market-leading Internet Explorer web browser. But one aspect of the launch could have wider significance: it seems that the Google web browser will be ported to ARM processors as well as the x86 architecture CPUs.
This is significant on two counts. First it indicates that Google is responding to the emergence of mobile internet devices as one – possibly the most – important driver for web use in the next few years.
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Intel may have launched the Atom processor in a blaze of publicity this year, but ARM can claim to be the processor of choice for mobile phone developers. So if you want your web browser as equally at home in mobile as in desktop terminals, compatibility with the ARM architecture would seem to be essential.
Google made its plans for the mobile internet market clear enough last year with the launch of Android, its open source operating system for high-end mobile phones. Now the search engine giant has put another piece in the jigsaw with a mobile-friendly web browser.
The other interesting point in Google’s decision to port to the ARM processor is the fact that it places the ARM architecture alongside the x86 architecture when designing internet applications.
To date, the internet has been essentially a desktop application running on x86 processors supplied largely by Intel and AMD.
But the development over the next few years of the mobile phone into a handheld internet device is likely to change the way we all use the web. As a result, when web applications move from desktop PCs to smartphones or MIDs, they will be running on ARM processors as well as x86 chips.
So when Intel CEO Paul Otellini says the internet runs on Intel architecture, of course he is right. But nothing lasts forever and Google’s decision last week could be the first sign t hat the pendulum of power has swung a few more inches in the direction of ARM.