Google says it was just kidding about Chrome lock-in

google-chromeOne of the most provocative comments made during Google’s most recent earnings conference call was Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette’s statement that the company’s Chrome Web browser is good for Google because “everybody that uses Chrome is a guaranteed locked-in user.”

Today, at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, executive Sundar Pichai (who leads Google’s Chrome team) said that Pichette “misspoke”. Google’s goal with Chrome isn’t to force people to use Google applications and services but rather to create a browser where Google can offer an optimized experience for its various applications. As Pichai put it, on Chrome “there is nothing between [users] and Google” and it gives Google “the ability to develop a seamless experience.”

Pichai also said that Chrome is “tremendously valuable to Google” because it increases Web usage and search — it sounds like Google has seen a direct improvement on those fronts from Chrome users, but it declined to share specifics.

The issue came up during a discussion of Chrome OS, Google’s new operating system which Google will release its first devices for on June 15. One reporter wondered whether Google is now creating a “walled garden”, since Chrome OS users can only use the Chrome browser. Pichai countered that he finds it “hard to think of” a platform that’s more open, because Chrome OS is basically the Web, and Web applications can integrate directly with Chrome OS with as little work as rewriting a single line of code.

On the other hand, he acknowledged that if someone wants to use a different Web browser or multiple browsers, then Chrome OS may not be the best device for them.