Everyone has been going gaga over Google’s new browser, Chrome. I actually had to work today (teaching classes), so since I’m coming late, let me point to other coverage. The announcement was made in the Google blog, which referenced the Google comic book (officially released on Google books but more readably presented by Blogoscoped).
Om Malik (as is often the case) has an incisive summary of the new software’s features, while Walt Mossberg and the Merc each have a first test drive.
There’s lots of speculation about Chrome being aimed at Firefox rather than Internet Explorer. As of August, market share is 72.2% IE, 19.7% Firefox, 6.4% Safari, and 0.7% Opera and Netscape. (Of the Safari, 0.3% is iPhone, up 58% from July to August). Kara Swisher (of the WSJ-owned site AllThingsD) is skeptical about Google’s chances of winning a browser war:
Google’s in no danger of foundering, given its search business still dominates and quite profitably, of course.Of course, Chrome is obviously the Android browser, since (as with Android) it’s Google’s browser based on WebKit. Apple already has a browser based on WebKit — it’s called Safari, available for Windows.
But, for all the halo of that, Google has also never had any other similar true home run with any of the other products it has released so far.
Still, why does Google have to go off and make its own browser, given that Apple is already making one? Why not work together? (After all, Google’s CEO is on Apple’s board). Google’s hubris (some would say arrogance) en route to Total World Domination seems to require its go-it-alone strategy, just as with Android it’s calling all the shots and not cooperating with other embedded Linux efforts.
The answer is that this is not about browser wars: this is what strategy professors call “multipoint competition,” in this case over competing hopes for Total World Domination. Microsoft dominated the software industry in the 1990s, and Google is determined to claim that mantle within 5 years.
This means that any software that Microsoft offers Google will eventually offer as well. If it can overcome its hubris, perhaps Google will partner or ally to deliver with other members of the anti-Microsoft camp. I suspect it will always choose weaker partners (like Yahoo or Sun) to keep control rather than strong ones (such as Apple or IBM), at least until that time later this century when it abandons hopes for Total World Domination.
By competing with Microsoft, Google is en route to be a fully integrated software producer, one that happens to deliver more (but not all) of its software as a network service rather than a client-based application. This is a fully integrated stack — from its Android variant of Linux through Chrome to Google-hosted services — rather than the vertical integration of inputs and outputs that characterized 20th century innovation leaders.
Google’s mantra (repeated at the official Chrome intro) is that the browser is not a browser, but a computing platform. This is an update (15 years later) of Sun’s old mantra “the network is the computer.” Unlike with Sun, Google will own both sides of the network used by hundreds of millions (if not billions) of consumers: the client browser, applets that run on the client, and the server stack that delivers those applets and services over the Internet.
Update: It is now clear that Chrome and Android have separate forks of the WebKit open source project, even if someday they may be merged back together.