Google took the application development world by storm Sept. 2 with Chrome, a beta of the company’s new open source Web browser. But it’s more than just a gateway to Google’s search and other Web applications.
If Chrome, with its fresh takes on stability, speed, security, privacy and ease of use, proves superior to other Web browsers, including Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera, the browser will be the equivalent of a nuclear warhead to use against Google’s chief opponent Microsoft.
With Chrome, Google will be able to tie the browser, search and applications together, providing an end-to-end experience on which to place more search, display and other ads in front of users.
Just as Microsoft nuked rivals Novell, Sun Microsystems and others in the desktop market by tethering Windows and IE to PCs, Chrome could become Google’s operating system for the Internet, challenging Microsoft’s search and other Web apps.
IDC’s Al Hilwa noted that with Chrome, browsers for the first time are being thought of as the new Web operating system and so they are inheriting standard isolation features and security that typically had been the province of an OS. He added:
“This is good news. It shows Google’s ambition in taking its dominance deeper and broader. With Android, Google took the OS to Web devices, now they are taking it to the PC. I think Chrome provides much needed features for security and the tabs interface do show innovation and out-of-the-box thinking on browsers.“
I’d have to think this would shut Microsoft out of the Internet market. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington agreed:
“Microsoft, meanwhile, is stuck with a bloated closed source browser that they don’t even tether to their search engine for fear of more antitrust woes. Google can push their search engine and other Web services all day long on Chrome, with no government interference. So not only will Chrome drive lots of incremental revenue to Google, it also paves the way for a Microsoft-free computing experience.“
Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeish told me that despite Google’s deep funding of Mozilla, in which it is the preferred search button on FireFox, Google needed to have its own branded browser with which to combat Microsoft.
“They’re coming up with something that can be potentially be more compelling than Microsoft because you’re basically eliminating the need for a consumer or a business to have Microsoft on their desktop for the search or browsing tools. They can create a one-stop shop for people to access tools and services and surf the Web.“
Google Chrome Could Nuke Microsoft From the Internet Market
Microsoft should be very afraid, but it isn’t, or is putting on its bravest face, according to this statement sent to me today from Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer:
“The browser landscape is highly competitive, but people will choose Internet Explorer 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips, respects their personal choices about how they want to browse and, more than any other browsing technology, puts them in control of their personal data online.“
It remains to be seen how people will take to IE 8. Most people I know, and not all of them are tech savvy, have been using Firefox for years.
Similarly, Mozilla CEO John Lilly welcomed the competition, applauding Google for following Mozilla’s footsteps in creating and open source browser, in a blog post:
“It should come as no real surprise that Google has done something here – their business is the Web, and they’ve got clear opinions on how things should be, and smart people thinking about how to make things better. Chrome will be a browser optimized for the things that they see as important, and it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves.“
It will be interesting and potentially disastrous for Firefox, which is still trying to grow share versus Microsoft. With Chrome coming up from below, Mozilla could find itself squeezed out.
Do we need another browser? I love Firefox 3. But Hilwa think it’s not enough. He told me:
“Independently of what Chrome is or is not, I think the state of stability, privacy and security on the Internet has atrophied significantly. While rich Internet applications are making new demands on Web applications and the Web is becoming the default OS for most users, we have allowed it to become something between the Wild West and a Banana Republic. We do need some fresh thinking about how to make the Web safer for every day uses.“
Fair enough, but Chrome had better be special when it comes out of beta, showing at least some of experience promise to live up to the hype.
Also, if Google wants business users to use it, it had better be pretty darn secure because, just as people are fed up with IE crashing, they are also tired of its vulnerabilities.
If Google has learned from Microsoft’s Web browser failures, it will gain trust quickly among users.
If Google starts to gain browser market share quickly, expect Microsoft to desperately start buying search share, returning to Yahoo and snapping up additional e-commerce properties, similar to its recent purchase of Greenfield Online.