Macquarie analyst Ben Schacter has a surprising report out this morning.He writes, “Google Chrome browser for iOS is coming.”
He adds, “Apple may already be reviewing Google’s submitted code for a Chrome browser for iOS.”
Schacter says we can expect a Chrome browser for iOS as soon as Q2, but if not this quarter, then definitely this year.
If properly executed this would be a big deal for both Apple and Google.
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.
Google’s Chrome browser has been a smash hit on the desktop surging past Firefox and Safari to become the second most popular web browser after Internet Explorer. If Google can produce a fully functional iOS browser it would dent Safari’s ~99% share of iOS devices.
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. That will push you to use Safari more and more.
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.
All that said, the most important thing to consider is whether or not Google’s Chrome will be better than mobile Safari. Google has failed to deliver solid applications for iOS in the past.