Google targets Chrome for mid-year showdown with Safari

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Mac users will get their first taste of a Google-developed alternative to incumbent browsers such as Safari and Firefox when the search giant releases Chrome for Mac sometime during the "first half" of this year.

A recent report from CNET includes a conversation with Chrome product manager Brian Radowski, who provided an update on the development of Chrome for Mac and Linux, which will soon join the already-operational Windows version.

"[The first half of 2009] is what we're hoping for," he said.  "Those two efforts proceeding in parallel.  They're at the same level of progress."

More specifically, the report notes that the Mac version has reached the "test shell" stage, able to display websites but not much else.

"[It can] render most Web pages pretty well," Rakowski said.  "But in terms of the user experience, it's very basic.  We have not spent any time building out features.  We're still iterating on making it stable and getting the architecture right."

Also coming soon to Chrome, which is based on Apple's WebKit open source rendering engine, is a framework to handle downloadable plug-in extensions, a feature long available in Mozilla's Firefox.

Readers interested in keeping tabs on the development of Chrome for Mac can head over to the project's detailed status page, or compile and run the latest version of the TestShell project, which lacks a traditional Mac interface.

Users can subscribe to three different Chrome channels: stable, beta, and developer preview.  Google expects to update the stable channel once per quarter.

For more on Chrome, please see earlier coverage of the Google browser initiative.