Google's Sergey Brin Denies Chrome Is OS for Web Apps

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-09-02

Google's Sergey Brin Denies Chrome Is OS for Web Apps

Despite attempts by reporters to goad Google into spiking Microsoft, Google co-founder Sergey Brin denied that Google views its new Chrome browser as an operating system for Web applications.

"I would not call Chrome the operating system of Web apps," Brin said after a demo of Chrome Sept. 2 at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, where the company released Chrome as an open-source project under the name Chromium. He added:

I think it is a very basic, fast engine [for running] Web apps and I think we'll see more and more Web apps of greater sophistication, all the kinds of things that today are pretty challenging to do on the Web because of browser performance, whether it's image manipulation or even video editing. We think that with Chrome, [apps] will be able to bridge that divide and you're going to be able to do more and more online.

Brin hedged his comments by adding that Chrome is just step one and that the platform under the open-source community will make it more robust and powerful.

Okay, so Brin might not want to proclaim Chrome as the Web OS to supplant Microsoft's entrenched Windows operating system yet, but it's clear from his comments that Google is moving in that direction. So far, so good. eWEEK's Jim Rapoza applauds Chrome in his review here.

When Google accidentally leaked its Chrome comic book Sept. 1, reporters and analysts, including yours truly and my colleague Joe Wilcox, argued that Google could make Chrome the premier Web operating system by combining it with its market-leading search engine and increasingly popular SAAS (software as a service) applications. This would eventually constitute a threat to Windows.

And that would spell doom for Microsoft. It's one thing to squeeze Microsoft out of the Internet game by dominating search and Web services. It's another entirely to come after the software giant's core operating system business, wielding the Web as your platform.

However, Google executives refused to paint Chrome as the technological torpedo that I and others believe it could be versus Microsoft and other Web browser makers such as Mozilla and Opera.

Humble Google

Sundar Pichai, Google vice president of product management, said after the demo that while his team demonstrated Chrome using Google Search, it has no tie-ins to major Google services.

In fact, when you install Google Chrome and you are a user who is using IE and has [Microsoft] Live Search or Yahoo as your default search, we just migrate that preference over. So Chrome is configured to be used with any search provider or any home page it's on ... We want to preserve user choice.

How humble and diplomatic of Google, but that was the mien of the Chrome launch event. Members of the Chrome programming team showed off the browser with an "Aw, shucks, ma'am" attitude hewing closely to the modesty we've come to appreciate from open-source application development.

This is a departure from the brash product introductions associated with IBM, Sun Microsystems and, yes, Microsoft, where these vendors jab their rivals.

In an understated fashion, Google programmers positioned Chrome as little more than a speedy, secure Web browser with neat perks.

These perks include Incognito windows, meaning that pages you view won't appear in your browser or search history, super-fast rendering by WebKit and speedy processing from the V8 JavaScript engine.

If I had come to the Webcast with no prior knowledge I would have thought Ben Goodger and Brian Rakowski, Google's user experience programmers for Chrome, were showing off a computer science project at an illustrious computing school.

But don't be fooled. If Google gets Chrome right and the browser sees uptick, Brin will no longer be able to dismiss questions about what kind of market share Google expects Chrome to garner as he did so deftly today.

Google will instead have to own up to the bludgeon it is wielding, for it will be hard to hide a complete Web stack of browser, search, and productivity and collaboration apps. Microsoft will see Google coming to gobble its Windows market share.

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