When Sun first fielded Java, it was “just” a programming language. Then Sun expanded it into a “platform” by adding other layers of software to the Java core.
It seems that Google is embarking on a similar path. In addition to providing a search engine, Google is now offering Web mail. It acquired photo-storing/sharing vendor Picassa. And in the not-too-distant future, Google could add a browser to its repertoire, as well.
Its not surprising that Microsoft is watching Google like a hawk (as are our friends over at WatchingGoogleLikeAHawk.com). After all, Microsoft respects—and fears—Googles search prowess. And despite Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates claims that Microsoft never ogled Google, there have been other reports that Microsoft has investigated actively (and repeatedly) the possibility of acquiring its nemesis.
Microsofts focus on Google could become even sharper if rumors pan out regarding Googles intent to become a browser purveyor. The company has registered the “Gbrowser.com,” “Gbrowser.net” and “Gbrowser.org” domain names. And if you piece the clues together, as some company watchers are doing, the Google browser wont be any old browser. It will be more of a development and operating environment, allowing users to work offline as well as online. Some might even go so far as to call it a “platform.”
Microsoft is not sitting idly by (at least not completely). Earlier this year, the company “reactivated” the Internet Explorer (IE) team. At most companies, the reactivation of a team would lead to expectations of new products. But not at Microsoft, where the browser-centric computing model once championed by former Windows exec Brad Silverberg lost out to the Windows-centric one spearheaded by Group VP Jim Allchin.
The result? At least for now, the IE team is not working on a stand-alone IE release.
“There are currently no plans to release a new version of Internet Explorer prior to Longhorn when it will be delivered as part of the new OS (operating sytem),” said IE program manager Dave Massy in June on his Web log. “As the team completes Windows XP SP2 we are starting to think about what we will deliver as a great browser in Longhorn which is why the feedback now is so useful.”
The operative words here: “currently no plans” (with the emphasis on “currently”). On June 23, 2004, there were no plans to develop and release a stand-alone version of IE, because, as Microsoft has been maintaining for the past few years, IE is an inextricable part of the operating system. If you want new IE features and functionality (such as, say, the latest Windows XP Service Pack 2 fixes, such as pop-up blocking and ActiveX-control blocking), you must upgrade to the latest version of Windows.
However, in July, Massy gave a more ambiguous answer during an online Web chat as to whether there might be a stand-alone IE 7 in the works.
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