Google Takes Metro Route For Windows 8 Chrome Browser

Eric is a veteran British tech journalist, currently editing ChannelBiz for NetMediaEurope. With expertise in security, the channel, and Britain's startup culture, through his TechBritannia initiative

Google’s developers set course to produce a tiled version of Chrome

Following Microsoft’s blog about the new-look Internet Explorer browser, Google has followed suit by confirming its Chrome browser will also have a Windows 8 Metro styling.

Though Windows 8 is in beta at the moment, the official release is not expected before October, giving Google plenty of time to ensure it doesn’t fall behind Microsoft or Mozilla.

Steep learning curve

Although Chrome has been developed for Android touchscreens, the conversion to Metro will not be as simple as a straight port. Chrome for Windows, the standard browser for Windows 7, runs well enough on Windows 8. Indeed, some developers have been using it since last September. Adding the tiles that would transform it to a Metro version could be more of a problem, judging by Mozilla’s initial experiences.

Mozilla started the ball rolling with its announcement of plans to develop a Metro interface for its Firefox browser on 13 February. Work did not start in earnest until 9 March, according to Mozilla developer Brian Bondy. In his blog, he said the task was not being helped by the paucity of information from Microsoft.

“To get started we read the MSDN whitepaper entitled Developing a Metro style enabled Desktop Browser,” he wrote. “This document lacked quite a bit of information though, so a lot of registry hacking was needed to get things working … Most of our week was spent with registry exports, diffs, Process Monitor logs, and other tools. The first couple minor goals were to get a recognised Metro tile showing up, getting it to launch our process, and then finally displaying a Metro app.”

This produced a Metro interface launch pad which has so far created a DirectX surface with a bit of text. The two developers are now working with a team to add the functionality that will turn this blank canvas into a Firefox browser.

Google will be saved some of the difficulties that Bondy faced because the Mozilla experience is being publicly logged online.

In his notes, Bondy noted that Metro will only run the nominated default browser. Anyone who runs Firefox or Chrome but has to switch to Internet Explorer for some banking sites, for example, may have to make some hard decisions – or spend time selecting their desired browser as the default one every time they need to switch.

Neither Google or Mozilla have specified a release date for their Metro browsers but their target will be early to mid-autumn as they try to ensure availability when Windows 8 is officially released.

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