Google's new Chrome browser app for iOS devices became the No. 1 free offering at the iTunes App Store on Friday, driven by all the media buzz generated this week at Google's I/O conference in San Francisco.

Still, early reviewers of Google's free download have given the new Chrome for iOS app mixed reviews.

"Safari is using the Nitro engine, and it's much much faster than this Chrome app," one reviewer said in an iTunes post.

In light of this criticism, we asked Net Applications Executive Vice President Vince Vizzaccaro about the new app's prospects with respect to trimming Safari's commanding share of the mobile browser market.

"I imagine a good number of people will try it out," Vizzaccaro told us Friday. "But if that's the experience they end up having, I have a hard time believing Chrome will gain much traction on iOS,"

On the other hand, given that this is Google's first attempt to launch Chrome on Apple's iOS platform, the browser's performance will likely improve over time, said Al Hilwa, director of Application Development Software at IDC.

"Playing on someone else's application platform -- and one that is as tightly controlled as iOS -- is always going to be a challenge," Hilwa told us Friday. "But it is a good move for Google to make the effort to be on iOS."

Mixed Reviews

Google's launch of a new iOS beachhead is significant because mobile devices, including tablets, account for 7.8 percent of global browser activities, according to Net Applications. And over the long haul, mobile browsing platforms are expected to command an ever-increasing share of the overall global market.

Though Microsoft's Internet Explorer reigns supreme in the PC market segment, Net Applications reports that Apple's Safari leads the mobile segment with a 63.2 percent share and with the generic Android browser a distant second with a 19.2 percent share. Moreover, the Web metric firm attributes Safari's huge lead to the dominance of Apple's iPad in the tablet space.

What Google gains from the launch of Chrome for iOS is having a way to encourage Apple device users to sign into their Google accounts to sync the open tabs, bookmarks, passwords, and Omnibox data from your computer to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. This enhances Google's opportunities to offer their subscribers enhanced services as they move from computing platforms running Windows to mobile devices running iOS.

"Google's strategic mission is to keep the mobile Web alive in the face of the app onslaught," Hilwa said. "Putting Chrome on iOS is part of this strategy because it can carry its Web leadership to the mobile Web and create a Chrome ecosystem across heterogeneous devices."

Chrome's Engine Lacks Nitro

Chrome for iOS users also benefit from having the ability to send Web pages from Chrome on their PCs to their iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad and read the transferred content while on the go -- even if they are offline.

Still, the downside noted by one iTunes reviewer is that Chrome for iOS runs 3.5 times slower when executing JavaScript than Safari -- thanks to Chrome's lack of Nitro, the engine in Safari which compiles JavaScript into native machine code.

By eliminating the need for a byte-code interpreter, the JavaScript execution engine built into Apple's Safari browser is significantly faster. However, Apple does not permit third-party apps to use Nitro -- supposedly due to security issues.

"If there are some explicit roadblocks that are based on certain ways Apple locks down the platform, then Google would have the grounds to make claims for more openness and possibly take the case to regulators," Hilwa said.