Is Google launching Chrome for iOS in 2012?

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Is Google launching Chrome for iOS in 2012?

Macquarie Equities Research says it is.

Google is “likely” to release its Chrome browser for Apple iOS devices by the end of 2012, if not earlier, according to a note by the US-based Macquarie Equities Research.

Chrome on iOS would allow Google to reduce the burden of a 50-60 percent revenue-sharing deal with Apple for Google searches on iOS devices, the analysts argue.

The move by Google is also a sign of a “replay” of the desktop browser wars of the 1990s, this time in the mobile arena, the analysts said.

The move would make sense for Google, which recently released Chrome mobile for its latest Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS, but there are several obstacles. 

On the desktop Google has a similar arrangement with Mozilla, keeping its search as the default engine on Firefox. The deal is responsible for a sizable chunk of Mozilla’s revenues. 

Chrome may have relatively quickly surpassed Firefox, but unlike the desktop Apple still holds the keys to iOS, which today accounts for 64 percent of the smartphones and tablets worldwide, according to Net Applications' latest figures.  

While Apple does now allow third party browsers on iOS devices, only Safari can be the default browser, meaning links from apps and emails would automatically open Safari, GigaOm notes.

There are also technical obstacles for Google to port Chrome mobile for Android to iOS. 

Google’s senior vice president of Chrome, Sundar Pichai, recently told CrunchFund co-founder MG Siegler the reason Chrome for iOS was a “tough question for us” is that Google can’t use Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine on iOS

Chrome and Safari both use the WebKit layout engine, which would make a move to iOS easier for Google than Mozilla, but the most likely browser Google can put on iOS will be a “re-skinned version” of mobile Safari using iOS UIWebView tools, Siegler wrote. 

One feature that would make Chrome appealing, given its popularity on the desktop, is synchronising across browsers, which Safari can do but only for the roughly five percent of desktop users that rely on it.

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