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Google mobile browser runs on ARM, x86

Posted: 04 Sep 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ARM processor x86? Google Chrome browser? mobile device?

Google founder Sergey Brin disclosed that it has modified its new Chrome browser to the ARM processor as well as to the x86. All or parts of the Chrome browser could be available for mobile devices such as cellphones within a few months.

Chrome is primarily designed as a PC browser, aiming to deliver significant increases in performance, reliability and security over the competitors including Microsoft's Internet Explorer which dominates the market. However, Chromeor key pieces of itare also well suited to mobile systems, developers said at the official roll out at Google headquarters.

One of the core planks of the Chrome browser is a new Javascript virtual machine called V8 that delivers "many times" the performance of other Java VMs, according to Google. The performance increases could open the door to new Web-based applications for companies such as Google.

"One way you can use V8 is to gain more performance, but another way is to reduce processor power," said Lars Bak, technical lead for the V8 design at Google.

"If you want to scale back power consumption on mobile devices, V8 can be a good choice," said Bak, who developed two generations of Java VMs while at Sun Microsystems including Hotspot, a standard part of today's Java version 5. "We chose to port V8 early on the ARM processor because it is used in so many mobile devices," he added.

Bak described the V8 compiler as relatively simple, and thus straightforward to port to other processors. "It might take three or four months," he said.

He showed a simple test of V8 that timed how fast an icon moved around a browser window. The V8 engine on an x86 PC performed more than ten times as fast as the Javascript engine in Internet Explorer.

A separate test of the Webkit open source rendering engine in Chrome loaded a test series of static Web pages on average in 77.28 milliseconds per page. By contrast Internet Explorer took an average of 220.64 milliseconds per page. So far Google has not tried to make significant links between its Chrome team and the separate group developing the Android handset software for mobile phones which includes a mobile browser. But that may change soon.

"They have been sharing some chunks, but these projects have been running in parallel and we didn't want to slow either team down by binding them together," said Brin, president of technology at Google.

"In another month or two, after they have both come out and we have had time to take a breath, we can think about subsequent versions of Android that may use more elements of Chrome," said Brin. "I could even imagine we may have a Chrome Lite," he added.

Brin added that Android phones are currently being tested.

"We still expect Android phones out by the end of the year," he said. "I have been using them, and they look good."

The faster Javascript performance of Chrome is key for Google which writes most of its Web applications in Javascript.

Google evolution
"We are evolving from a search company to a search, advertising and applications company, and this browser will help us write better Web apps," said Sundar Pichai, VP of product management at Google.

"By making the browser faster we can generate more traffic and that directly benefits us," said Larry Page, co-founder and president of products at Google. "You can only do so many searches in a day, so if a browser can increase performance you can do more searches and we will gain more revenue," he added.

Chrome is also strategic for Google because it helps drive toward open standards in Web development, mitigating the influence of whatever Microsoft builds into its browser.

"We want to see several browsers out there that are viable alternatives," said Brin. "And we want to see more choices so Web developers feel compelled to develop to open standards," he added.

The added performance also opens the door to new and better Web-based applications from Google and others.

"Some Web apps with compute intensive tasks today send those jobs back to a server, and they are subject to the latency over the network to get results back," said Bak. "With this browser, you could run the whole application on the client."

A beta version of Chrome is available as a 7Mbyte download that includes support for 43 languages including Korean and Japanese.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times





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