Chrome is the new pink

Google recently announced and released its very own web browser, known as Chrome. The Economist wrote this up under the headline The Second Browser War.

The first browser war was Microsoft Internet Explorer vs Netscape. I was a close observer in that war, having been at Vermeer Technologies when Microsoft purchased us for our single product, FrontPage. That was at the leading edge of the Microsoft surge into the internet. They were late, and a little lumbering, but they won the first browser war.

At about that time I wrote a piece called "Microsoft and the Death of Groupware" which contended that Microsoft wanted to kill groupware (at that time embodied in Lotus Notes) because it was a network hosted application, in favor of its own suite of PC centric applications which could sort-of do the same things.

Now Microsoft is fighting another threat of a similar sort where Google (and many others) are providing web centric applications which threaten the same PC centric Microsoft world. The Chrome browser is recognized to be the latest shot in this war in that it pushes the browsers towards more speed and capability thus strengthening the ability for network applications that live "in the web" to usurp the position of PC based programs like MS Office. Many think Microsoft cannot win this war, being unable to cannibalize its own PC centric business to move into a web-centric world. This is the now conventional wisdom drawn about disruptive technologies from the classic Innovator's Dilemma by Christensen. I am not so ready to count Microsoft out.

Microsoft is a little late again, but is lumbering onto this field of war with initiatives like Silverlight and Live Mesh. Especially if Google stumbles, perhaps even (and ironically) into anti-trust problems, then Microsoft may yet retake the high ground.

Microsoft has never been the master of the future - it is always a follower, and not a very fast one. But Microsoft has often been the master of the now, with its no-longer voiced but ingrained notion of "embrace and extend". Don't count Microsoft out yet, whether or not Chrome is the new pink.

1 comment:

Don Dodge said...

Everything Google does gets lots of attention...because it is GOOGLE. Few of their initiatives have amounted to anything significant.

Google Checkout was the PayPal killer. Google Knol was the Wikipedia killer. Google Docs was the Microsoft Office killer. Google Video was the YouTube killer...until they bought YouTube. You get the point. Lots of impact.

Google Chrome will compete with FireFox, Safari, Mozilla, Opera, and a bunch of other alternative browsers. Will it gain a few points of market share? Probably. Will Chrome make a significant impact on browser usage? Not likely, if history is any guide.

There is no doubt that many applications are moving to a browser interface. This trend was happening long before Chrome. Other browsers will continue to adapt and improve, and users will benefit from the competition. It is all good.