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Why Google Chrome Might Shine

Google has the tech world atwitter with its launch of a beta today for its own browser, called Google Chrome. 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, such as Walter Mossberg's at the Wall Street Journal, put it neck-and-neck with Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8. Read Mossberg's take here (registration required).

Instead, my view is that Google will be competitive with Microsoft here because the company simply has to be. In order for Google to continue to grow 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, you're going to go back to using Microsoft Office.

Judging by the emphasis in Google's comic book introducing the new browser, 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 business 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. I think 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 the competition is hot on its heels. 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 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? If so, would that help you improve the technology solutions you offer or just harm your efforts to sell Microsoft products? Let me know at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 02, 2008 at 11:58 AM


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