Google will release a beta of its Chrome browser for the Mac in a matter of weeks, a company manager said.

According to Neil Baum, a product manager on the Chrome team, Google will take the Mac version of its browser to beta in early December. A Google spokesman declined to confirm an exact date for the Mac beta, but noted that a release early next month "shouldn't sound too surprising," since the company had previously promised a public preview before the end of the year.

Baum mentioned the early December time frame in a message posted Wednesday to the Chromium-extensions forum, where he urged developers to work on BrowserActions, a Chrome feature that lets users call an extension by clicking on an icon at the right of the browser's address bar.

"The extensions team has been working hard to get BrowserActions ready, and they're already working great on Windows and Linux," Baum said. "We've noticed that many of you have updated your extensions to take advantage of the new UI. We'd like to encourage the rest of you to do so as well.

"Why make the switch now?" he continued. "The earlier you switch, the more time you will have to polish your experience for our Beta launch in early December. We realize this means dropping Mac support for a couple of weeks, but we already have people working on that."

Google shifted Chrome for Windows out of beta two months ago, but has not yet produced a beta for either Mac or Linux. Self-styled "developer channel" editions of Chrome on Mac and Linux were released last June, but Google has repeatedly warned off casual users from those early, potentially unstable versions.

Chrome currently accounts for an estimated 3.6% share of all browsers, according to the most recent numbers from Web metrics company Net Applications. The addition of a Mac version would bump up Chrome's share, according to analysts and experts, including Gartner Research's Ray Valdes and Net Applications' Vince Vizzaccaro.

"I always thought that [Mozilla's] Firefox would be in a great position if it made 10%," Vizzaccaro said today, referring to the other open source browser on the market. Firefox currently has a 25% share of the browser market. "Now I'm thinking the same thing about Chrome."

If Chrome sustains its average growth rate of the last three months, it will reach the 5% mark in March 2010, six months ahead of Google's schedule of September 2010. Google has set a 10% share goal for 2011, something Gartner's Valdes said is doable. "It's an achievable goal if they hit on all cylinders," Valdes said in an earlier interview. "Google has a massive footprint on the Internet landscape."

The developer version of Chrome for the Mac can be downloaded from Google's site.