Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Google Ignites a New Browser War With Microsoft By Unveiling One of its Own This Week

In its most frontal and aggressive attack on Microsoft yet, sources with knowledge of the project said Google is preparing to unveil a new browser–ready for download to users as early as tomorrow–to try to loosen Microsoft’s iron grip on the most important piece of software to navigate the Internet.

In addition, Google Blogoscoped has published a comic book that Google is apparently using to explain the technical aspects of its open-source browser, which is called Chrome.

[UPDATE: Here is a post on Google's official confirmation of the browser launch in 100 countries tomorrow, which was released on its blog this afternoon. It will only be in beta in Windows, but Google said Mac and Linux versions were coming soon.]

Before the Google-Microsoft battles felt more like a Cold War, mostly limited to Google (GOOG) poking at Microsoft (MSFT) via the development of small-scale Web-based software to compete with Microsoft’s dominant Word, PowerPoint and other such products and Microsoft’s thus-far unsuccessful attempts to break Google’s lock on the search market.

But with this move, which has been rumored since 2004, the war most definitely has gone red-hot, as Google aims to grab a chunk of Microsoft’s huge browser market share, which various surveys put at about three-quarters of the market.

The efforts to do this have been well known within the company for a long time, although the timing of its launch has not.

But Google Fedexed the comic too early to Blogoscoped–who is based in Germany–and possibly others, which makes BoomTown really appreciate express mail more than ever.

(I have posted the comic book here, which I also obtained and Digital Daily’s John Paczkowski has written a quick executive summary of it.)

Sources said Google has made the move to create and distribute a browser over worry about what new features in IE8 could do to its search business.

That includes privacy changes that could prevent it from collecting information related to the effectiveness of its adds, quick-linking to Microsoft mapping and other offerings and a more robust search bar that is also more Microsoft-centric.

To combat Microsoft’s IE dominance in recent years, Google has been backing Mozilla’s Firefox browser, which grew out of the ashes of the once-powerful, now-irrelevant Netscape browser like a phoenix to grow to an astonishing 18 percent of the market.

That market share has climbed from 11 percent just two years ago–even against Microsoft’s IE juggernaut with 74 percent and Apple’s Safari browser with six percent.

Mozilla’s recent launch of Firefox 3 has a record-setting debut day in mid-June, with 8.3 million downloads of Firefox 3 in 24 hours.

Google recently renewed its deal with Mozilla that puts its search engine as homepage and search bar default to 2011. Google then pays Mozilla royalties for Google ad clicks that come from Firefox searches.

(Here’s a recent post I did about a visit I made to Mozilla’s HQ, right around the corner from Google, as well as a video interview I did with its CEO John Lilly.)

But obviously Mozilla’s efforts were not enough for Google, which clearly has decided it must own and distribute a browser, especially since it has become the most significant piece of software related to the Internet and the fulcrum on which most of Google’s business lies.

In other words, it is declaring the browser critical to its future and, in that regard, it is entirely right.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

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