Google (GOOG) finally launched its Chrome browser for Apple computers (AAPL), rolling out a beta version on Wednesday. I tried it. Chrome is really, really fast. Thus far, you can't use extensions -- programs that extend a browser's functionality -- which means I can't truly pass judgment on Chrome. But the mere presence of Chrome on Macs is likely a sore spot for Apple team, which has been engaged in an increasingly public battle with Google over control of the future of the mobile Internet.
The browser still matters because it remains the key entry portal for the vast majority of Internet usage. This will be even more important as Web-based applications for word processing, spreadsheets and other tasks seamlessly mesh with offline traditional software products. But Chrome on the Web matters less than Chrome on the phone. And on the iPhone, in particular.
Thus far, Apple has made the iPhone a very unfriendly place for Web browsers, other than Apple's own Safari, of course. Google has been unable to get its disruptive Google Voice iPhone application through Apple's approval process. It's unclear whether AT&T (T), the exclusive iPhone carrier in the U.S., or Apple are the primary forces blocking Google Voice. Google Voice allows users to make free or nearly free local and long distance calls over Internet connections using Google's telephone network.
Apple has also yet to say whether it would allow Google Navigation onto the iPhone. This is another free mobile application from Google that destroys existing revenue models for turn-by-turn GPS navigation applications. These applications are among the priciest apps on the iPhone and significant potential revenue stream for Apple.
Is three the charm in killer mobile apps? With Chrome coming on the scene, there is now a third critical application that a large group of iPhone users might be interested in having on their handsets. No doubt, the pressure is building on Apple to allow other applications to run on the iPhone that might ultimately undermine key revenue pieces for Apple.
Apple is certainly feeling the heat from Android, Google's mobile operating system. The OS vaulted into the second spot in terms of bandwidth used for Web surfing among mobile operating systems in the past two months in the U.S.
This measure is important because it's an indicator that Android users are, like iPhone users, datahogs who are more willing to view their handsets as mini-computers and pay for applications and higher-cost unlimited data plans. Oddly, this has put Apple and Microsoft (MSFT) in the same camp with other supporters of paid applications and paid systems.
Of course, browsers have been free for years and will likely never again be paid software on PCs or cell phones. But should Chrome finally crack the iPhone, it would put a real chink in Apple's ironclad control over its platform. It could also start a cascade of pressures forcing Steve Jobs to consider a world of free in the mobile space that AT&T and other partners may not like very much.
Alex Salkever is Senior Writer at AOL Daily Finance covering technology and greentech. Follow him on twitter @alexsalkever, read his articles, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google Chrome for the Mac goes live: Will Apple cave on iPhone access?