Google and Apple may still be at each others’ throats — remember Steve Jobs’ threat to “go thermonuclear war” on the company he felt ripped off the iPhone — but you wouldn’t know it from the way Google was talking on Thursday.
At its I/O conference for developers, Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) announced that its Chrome browser will be available in iTunes App Store later on Thursday, as will Google Drive, the productivity app suite that includes Google Docs. The news drew cheers and applause from an excited crowd of software writers.
“People have been asking us for this for a long time, but we wanted to make sure we got it right,” Sundar Pichai, Google’s head of Chrome, said during his keynote presentation.
Chrome is now the most popular browser in the world by some metrics, including Google’s own. It has 310 million active users, and a growing number of them are mobile. Google’s Android mobile operating system began using Chrome as its primary built-in browser in its most recent version.
Chrome’s portability and constant updates have made it a hit, but it hasn’t been available on the world’s most popular smartphone and tablet until today.
Apple’s (AAPL, Fortune 500) restrictions on third-party software are legendary, but browsers in particular have had a difficult time making their way into the iTunes App Store. That’s because Apple’s doesn’t approve apps that duplicate its core functionality.
Related story: A look behind Apple’s App Store curtain
If a browser gets approved, it has to render Web pages through an iOS software called UIWebView — a tool that allows apps to display Web content without ever leaving an app. But it’s slow and can’t take advantage of some of the hardware capabilities that make browsing in Safari lightning-fast.
Just a small handful of third party browsers, including Dolphin, Opera and a few others, have received approval. Like those browsers, Chrome will take advantage of its giant server farm to load pages quickly, bypassing the need to use the hardware tools exclusive to Safari.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment on Chrome’s entry into its market.
After a heavy load of Android announcements and updates on Wednesday, including a new tablet, it was slightly strange to see Google engineers proudly wielding an iPad and an iPhone on stage Thursday. But adding Chrome and Drive to the popular iOS platform will expand Google’s user base and ecosystem.
Google’s browser allows users to sync tabs, bookmarks and other settings across multiple devices. Once a user signs in to the browser on any computer or phone, they can view their opened tabs and browsing history.
That means that someone can search for and click on a restaurant’s website on a Chrome browser on a PC, then open Chrome on an iPhone and instantly view the restaurant’s page. The user can even hit the back button on the phone to go back to the search results, a feature Google showed off at its conference.
Google’s Drive App is also making its way to iOS Thursday, and it comes with some new, long-awaited features.
Beginning Thursday, Google Docs users will be able to edit their documents when offline. The app will store the document in the device’s cache, and it will automatically upload it to Google Drive when connected.
The company said offline mode for spreadsheets and presentations will follow soon. The ability to edit while disconnected has been one of the key differentiators between Microsoft Office and Google’s productivity apps.
Perhaps the coolest new feature that Google unveiled Thursday was Google Drive’s ability to search for photos without any captions or tags. For instance, a search for “pyramids” spat back a few photos that a keynote presenter had taken while in Giza.