Google brings Chrome to the browsers battle

Tuesday 2nd September 2008
Market shares. Courtesy: New York Times

Google will release its free Web browser Chrome that the company said would challenge Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, as well as the Firefox browser. It is to be available in more than 100 countries for computers running on Microsoft's Windows operating system. Google, despite using Webkit an open source rending engine for Chrome, is however still working on versions compatible with Apple Inc's Mac computer and the Linux operating system. But Google focus now is entirely on market numbers.

The browser is a universal doorway to the Internet, and the use of Internet software and services is rapidly growing. Increasingly, the browser is also the doorway to the Web on cellphones and other mobile devices, widening the utility of the Web and Web advertising. Google, say the analysts, cannot let Microsoft’s dominant share of the browser market go without a direct challenge.

It already competes with Microsoft in online search and Internet advertising, both make operating software for cellphones. Google is increasingly competing with Microsoft head-on in Cloud software that handles basic productivity like word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and e-mail programs. Google has Web-based software in these markets that are low-cost or free alternatives to Microsoft’s lucrative desktop software.

Despite the frequent clashes with Microsoft — including Google's thwarting an attempted acquisition of Yahoo — Google has come out on top only in search and search advertising. Google does not have to win a browser war. Strategically, opening yet another front against Microsoft forces it to divert resources to defend franchises.

Chrome may put Google in competition with an ally, the Mozilla Corporation, which manages the Firefox project. However, just last week, Google renewed its deal with Mozilla with Google Search the home page for Firefox and Google its default search bar, for which Google makes substantial payments to Mozilla. The agreement runs to November 2011, and will continue.Google, which has strongly backed Firefox, the open-source browser that has gained about a fifth of the market against the dominant Internet Explorer.

Google clashed with Microsoft saying it had designed IE to gain ground in search, a market where Google is the runaway leader. After Microsoft introduced IE 7 in 2006, Google complained that the browser’s search box favored Microsoft’s search service. Microsoft responded and made modifications, and a federal judge overseeing the antitrust consent decree against Microsoft determined that the browser design was not anticompetitive.

The first round of the browser wars in the 1990s led to a sweeping federal antitrust suit against Microsoft for the tactics it used to stifle competition from the commercial pioneer in browsing software, Netscape Communications. 

A federal appeals court ruled in 2001 that Microsoft had repeatedly violated the nation’s antitrust laws. Microsoft later reached a settlement with the Bush administration, which included some sanctions but left the company free to bundle browsing software with Windows, which runs more than 90% of all personal computers.

Microsoft has released its new version, IE8, and hold 73% of the browser market, according to Net Applications, a research firm. The market share for Firefox with it Version 3 launch has climbed to 19%, while Apple’s Safari has 6%.


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