Google usually celebrates a new stable Chrome release with a blog post touting its new features. But with Chrome 20 today, all we got was a long list of high-paying security bug fixes. That can't be right.
Or at least that can't be all there is in Chrome 20.
If Google sticks to its approach from past years, today's I/O keynote will focus on mobile hardware and Android, while tomorrow will be about the Web and Chrome. But what's in Chrome 20?
Demonstrating the power of Native Client I expect a lot of talk about Native Client, which Google has been diligently debugging. Native Client (NaCl) is an open-source tech that allows C and C++ code to be securely run in the browser. Basically, it runs code in two protected sandboxes. This has the security benefit of cutting down on browser-based threats, but security is only part of the picture. Google wants NaCl to power Web apps to run as smoothly as natively written programs hosted on your hard drive.
Google demonstrated at the Game Developers Conference in March that it's gunning for games, and that makes a lot of sense. Chrome has been one of Google's most successful projects, going from zero to about 20 percent market share in less than four years. Google's Colt McAnlis, the developer advocate for Native Client, told CNET at the GDC that the company is looking at integrating games with Google+ and monetizing them, too. If the company can get people to spend cash in the browser using their browser technology, that would be an unheard of win at a time when everybody is looking to mobile and native apps.
The games demoed over the past nine months haven't been the simplistic designs of Farmville, but rather full-on console-style rendering. It's a play for developer attention, browser market share, and pushing the limits of the Web, all rolled into one.
Not all game developers have been on board for this, though. Notably, a small handful of developers, including Electronic Arts/PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz, have yanked their support of Google+.
Google also has in place a nearly seamless update system. Though Chrome 20 is available now, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that some features could have been held back today but pushed out in an update tomorrow.
Native Client could be huge for Google, if it gets other browsers to adopt it. Serious demonstrations of its potential could go a long way toward making that hard sale.
Of course, there will be minor feature improvements in Chrome 20, too. We know, for example, that Chrome 20 has a Chrome to Mobile option for tabs. But the big news will be the emphasis on the browser as a platform.