Analysis of IT news

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Google released its own Web browser

News item: Google has released Google Chrome, its own Web browser.

Analysis: the motives behind Google Chrome are different than the motives behind Firefox or Internet Explorer. Google openly encourages other players to take Google features and is probably genuine about it. The goal here is to lobby the industry rather than winning the Web browser war.

Google has indeed a vested interest in seeing Web browsers being improved, and not just its own. The search giant's main business is indeed Web applications. And one of the large bottleneck of Web applications these days is the Web browser.

Chrome is just a way to push for two components Google would love any Web browser to have: Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine and Google Gears. JavaScript is critical for Google because all its services heavily rely on it. The search giant has thus an incentive to make sure that all the popular Web browsers run the same, lean JavaScript engine such as V8.

Google Gears is the other piece of the puzzle and allows a Web application to work offline by letting the browser store some data locally. Gears has been available as a plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer for some time now, but hasn't really picked up.

Will Google Chrome overhaul the Web browser market? Unlikely. After having killed Netscape, Microsoft basically stopped major development on Internet Explorer. As a result, competition released superior Web browsers (it's only recently that Microsoft decided to improve a bit IE). But if IE's market share declined because of superior competitors, it still has 75% of the market.

So while it took years for Firefox to get to 19% market share, it's unlikely that Google Chrome will overhaul the market. The conventional wisdom is also that Chrome is more likely to steal Firefox users than IE users. Will Google succeed in having Firefox and IE adopt V8 and Gears? Time will tell. But I don't see Microsoft having much incentive to help Google.

But there is one market where Google Chrome can prosper: embedded Web browsing, such as in smart mobile phones. Google Gears is indeed completely geared at cell phone users who might want to, say, write an email, even when they are not connected. One can only assume that Google will integrate Chrome into Android, its mobile phone operating system.

Netbooks might also be a market of choice. A lot of PC vendors have indeed started to release netbooks based on a lightweight version of Linux, and whose main goal is to browse the Internet (they also offer other features, but I doubt people care that much). It will be interesting to see if Google ever releases a version of Android for the PC platform.


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