Some think Google’s Chrome, the company’s new browser, will suffer from lack of interest due to Microsoft Internet Explorer’s huge market share. Others think Chrome has a chance in the mobile market, where Microsoft is weak. One important blogger thinks it is the linchpin of a full onslaught against Microsoft, nothing less than a full on desktop operating system that will compete head on with Windows that will ultimately be successful.
I agree with the second and third opinions: Chrome has a chance in the mobile market, and it will also significantly influence the future of personal computing by challenging the Microsoft model. In the first place, Microsoft’s mobile browsing market share is already undermined by Apple Safari in the iPhone. Secondly, Google is adding the final piece of the puzzle to make its Android mobile operating system more or less the operating system of the Internet itself, essentially bypassing Microsoft’s monopoly on the desktop. It will indeed be the first browser built from the ground up with the idea of running applications rather than displaying pages. As Nicholas Carr put it, “Chrome is the first cloud browser.” The goal of Chrome is to influence the entire industry and upgrade the capabilities of all browsers so that they can better support Web services (applications) and cloud computing.
Google’s stated purpose is to drive innovation on the Web. Market share can be misleading when thinking about the impact of something that is truly innovative. We can remember when Netscape had market share and became the Web’s design standard, and how abruptly it was taken by Microsoft (not by being innovative, but that’s another story) — and as a result, Web designers were, and still are, forced to design their sites to work with Internet Explorer as the design standard. But true innovation can influence a market strongly, no matter how small its share, or even create a new market. The iPod created its own market by being innovative. The iPhone has a tiny percentage of the mobile market; nevertheless, the iPhone is such a phenomenon that it has the power to influence the entire market as a design standard.
That may be ultimately Chrome’s legacy. As the Web serves up applications, Chrome will most likely become the design standard for mobile browsing and may have a serious enough impact on desktop/laptop browsing to free Web designers from the constraints of designing for Internet Explorer. That would be a very good thing. Innovation can occur anywhere, but innovation that sticks requires major marketing mojo, and Google has that mojo.
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