Google said August 31 that Sony is bundling the Chrome Web browser on its Sony laptop computers, the search engine company's first such bundling deal to help the now one year-old browser reach more users.
Sony did not respond to requests for comment but a Google spokesperson confirmed to eWEEK that Sony is bundling Chrome. The spokesperson declined to provide financial details but claimed: "Users' response to Google Chrome has been outstanding, and we're continuing to explore ways to make Chrome accessible to even more people."
The part about an "outstanding" user response is in the eye of the beholder. Since launching Sept. 1 2008, Chrome has grabbed 2.8 percent of the world's Web browser market, according to Net Applications figures through August. This is a far cry from Microsoft's Internet Explorer leads with 66.9 percent, and even Mozilla Firefox's 22.9 percent.
However, despite its short life, Chrome has passed Opera's 2 percent and is gaining on Apple's Safari, which has a 4 percent share. With a few more bundling deals, Chrome could not only easily pass Safari, but it could reach double digit market share in mid-2010. By 2011, it could have Firefox in its sites; together, Firefox and Chrome could squeeze IE from below.
However, it is important to note that Sony Vaios, like the majority of personal computers and laptops in the market, run Microsoft's Windows operating system. Microsoft has always found it easy to bundle IE with Windows, so easy that it has had to settle lawsuits with the Justice Department and European Commission over its browser-OS bundling practices.
Google is expected to launch a Chrome Operating System for netbooks in late 2010. A Chrome browser-OS combination could provide Google the necessary one-two punch to square up with Microsoft.
While this is the optimal competitive scenario for Google, Microsoft is not going to sit idly by and let Google swoop down on its market, so the battle could get messy, but this wouldn't be until 2011 and beyond.
In the meanwhile, Chrome, while particularly speedy, has some rough edges to smooth out. Chrome ran on Windows right out of the gate in 2008 and the Chrome team has been working hard on enabling the browser to run on Mac and Linux.
Just yesterday, the Chrome team issued to its developer channel a new release of Chrome that includes bug fixes and some improved compatibility with Apple's Mac OS X. TechCrunch also claimed Chrome is building an API that will allow a developer to pop up small messages on a user's desktop.