Channel Call

Expect Google to Burnish Chrome to a High Shine

Dismiss Chrome as another browser and partners might miss a big opportunity.

There's a temptation to scoff at Google's effort to take on Microsoft Internet Explorer's massive share in the browser market. I mean, come on: The company previewed the Google Chrome beta browser with a comic book, right?

Keep an eye on this one. It has a strong chance to make a serious dent in Microsoft's browser dominance. My view doesn't have much to do with the specifics of this beta browser release; early reviews put it neck-and-neck with the IE8 beta.

Instead, I think Google will be competitive with Microsoft here because it has no other choice. For Google to continue growing and for its Web-centric vision of both home computer use and business computer apps to come to fruition, the browser simply has to be better. It can't hang while you're writing an e-mail. It can't crash while you're halfway through editing a document. It can't chug endlessly when too many browser tabs are open. If the browser keeps doing those things, users will nurse their frustrations over a comforting mug of Microsoft Office.

Judging by the emphasis in Google's comic book, the major design objectives in Google Chrome were improving speed and stability. It seems very geeky and 1990s, until you think about how critical a fast, stable browser is to Google's platform ambitions.

There's the concern that Microsoft can shut down competitors by making competitive Web apps incompatible with IE, thereby blocking the bulk of Internet users from accessing the apps. Such a naked exercise of power on Microsoft's part is unlikely at this point. The more basic issue is that Microsoft has no incentive to make the browser any better unless there's competition. Microsoft's current business model is built on the idea that customers, especially in the business world, live in Microsoft Office and occasionally pop onto the Web to find some fact, then pop back into Office. IE is currently more than good enough for that.

The Firefox project showed that an innovative approach could shake up Microsoft's dominance, and force Microsoft to work harder and do better. But Firefox didn't have much of a financial dog in the fight. Google does. (And unlike Netscape, Google isn't trying to build a business powerhouse from a strong browser. It's trying to build a strong browser from a business powerhouse.)

I'm not saying Google Chrome will beat Microsoft on market share. I'm saying that by investing in a browser now, and continuing to invest in the browser, Google will force Microsoft to keep making IE better and will press Microsoft to support standards that emerge outside Redmond.

What's your take? Could Google Chrome usher in a new era of browsing speed and stability that lower the frustration factor in using cloud-based apps compared to local processing? If so, would that help you improve the technology solutions you offer -- or just harm your efforts to sell Microsoft products? Let me know. I'm at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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