Ina Fried

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Google’s Worlds Collide as Chrome Browser Comes to Android (Video)

No, hell hasn’t frozen over.

But Google has finally brought its two big platforms together, with Chrome for Android arriving on Tuesday.

There are some big caveats at first. It’s just a beta, and will only work on phones and tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich. Over time, though, Google expects Chrome to become the default (and only Google browser) in Android.

Chrome for Android brings over much from the desktop version, though not everything.

It also adds some mobile-specific stuff, including an easy way to manage tabs and the ability to preload pages it thinks you might be about to enter.

Most interesting, though, is the way it synchronizes with a desktop version of the browser. Those who opt to sync with a logged-in desktop version of Chrome can automatically take with them any open tabs they have from their PC or Mac. It’s particularly nice for those who often find themselves emailing directions or other data from one device to another.

For those who want to go for the opposite experience, Chrome for Android supports an Incognito mode in which cookies, Web sites and other browser data are not saved from session to session.

The big promise of Chrome is that browsing on the phone would shift to something that people do often instead of something only done when one has to.

“We can really take a leap forward on the mobile Web,” Chrome boss Sundar Pichai said in an interview. “Previously, it is something you would do once in a while. You would hesitate.”

That Chrome would eventually come to Android isn’t a surprise. Sergey Brin predicted as much back in 2008, when the desktop browser first launched.

However, its arrival could mean stepped up competition for the other platforms when it comes to Web browsing as well as potentially a smaller market for third party Android browsers, such as Mozilla and Dolphin.

Pichai said that the company has actively been working on Chrome for Android for more than a year. The time is right, he said, thanks to some software improvements with Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as the improved hardware hitting the market from various phone makers.

There are a few differences from the desktop version. Notably, Chrome for Android doesn’t currently support plug-ins, though it does have an architecture for such support. Consistent with what Adobe said last year, though, there are no plans for Flash support.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald