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Apple Products See the Unpolished Side of Chrome

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jun 29, 2012 11:56 AM PT

Mac owners have been having more than a few headaches with Google's Chrome browser.

Apple Products See the Unpolished Side of Chrome

Owners of new Macbook Airs have been complaining for several days that their devices have been freezing or crashing when they use the Chrome browser.

Google has confirmed to Gizmodo that the problem is a leak of graphics resources in the Chrome browser related to the drawing of plugins on Mac OS X and that it's working to find and fix the root cause.

"This is not good news for Google's reputation with Apple users," Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC, told MacNewsWorld.

Separately, Google on Thursday unveiled Chrome for the iPhone and iPad at its Google I/O developers' conference in San Francisco.

It's possible, though, that Chrome could run more slowly on iOS than the default Mobile Safari browser because the latter uses the Nitro JavaScript engine, which other browsers are barred from using.

"This will likely be the same kind of problem folks will complain about when running in the new Metro sandboxed environment from Microsoft," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld. "These are intentionally closed systems to better assure the customer experience and protect against hostile hacking."

The MacBook Air Stink

New Macbook Airs used by staffers at Gizmodo froze and crashed when the Chrome browser was used, according to the tech blog. Switching to Apple's Safari browser solved the problem, it reported.

A graphics resource leak in Chrome is causing a kernel panic on Macs with Intel HD 4000 graphics processing units (GPUs), Google said. That includes new Macbook Airs. Google has filed radar bug number 11762608 with Apple about the kernel panics because it shouldn't be possible for an application to trigger such behavior.

Google sent out an auto update for Chrome on Thursday that temporarily disables some of its GPU acceleration features on new MacBook Airs. It expects to send out further fixes to re-enable many or all of those features.

Many of the new notebooks Apple unveiled earlier this month are susceptible, as several use the Intel HD 4000 GPU.

Steve Strikes Again

Apple's products "are making significant gains as Web browsing devices," IDC's Hilwa said. The issues Chrome is suffering on MacBook Airs "could undermine Google's ability to reach this growing number of users."

Apple "is the power player in the consumer space, and right now consumers are driving end points," Enderle stated. "As they force Google off their platforms, Google is being diminished, showcasing the massive opportunity cost of Google's betrayal of Apple by creating Android in the first place."

iOS Cripples Chrome

Chrome and other third-party browsers can sometimes run more slowly on iOS than Apple's Safari browser does because they aren't allowed to use the faster Nitro JavaScript engine, which Safari uses.

"Chrome for iOS provides the same fast, secure and stable Web browsing experience you've come to enjoy when using Chrome on your desktop or Android device, while also adapting to platform specific technical specifications," Google spokesperson Jessica Kositz told MacNewsWorld. "Rendering and the JavaScript engine are provided by iOS through UIWebView, as are all third-party browsers on iOS, so Chrome for iOS does not use Chrome v8 JS engine."

Apple introduced Nitro into iOS 4.3 in March 2011 and also uses Nitro in Mac OS X.

Nitro evolved from JavaScriptCore, a framework that provides a JavaScript engine for WebKit implementations. The WebKit project rewrote JavaScriptCore as "SquirrelFish," a bytecode interpreter. SquirrelFish evolved into SquirrelFish Extreme, which was marketed as "Nitro" and announced in September of 2008. Nitro compiles JavaScript into native machine mode.

Apple is blocking access to Nitro for other vendors' browsers on iOS because this is "deemed too risky by Apple," Enderle suggested. "Whether this is to protect against a competitive threat more than a security exploit isn't clear."

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