Chrome's primary target is Microsoft

Google's new browser poses the greatest threat against Microsoft, not so much other competing browsers, according to industry players.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Several industry players say the entrance of Google's Chrome does not hurt other competing browsers so much as it poses a threat squarely directed at Microsoft.

Introduced earlier this week, Google's new browser has generated an avalanche of interest online, with some speculating on Mozilla Firefox's future and others heralding the re-emergence of the browser wars of the '90s.

But an Ovum analyst thinks Microsoft has more to worry about than Mozilla.

Laurent Lachal, senior analyst at Ovum said in a statement that the challenge Chrome brings to Microsoft is two-fold: it not only threatens Microsoft Internet Explorer's market share, but also seeks to overturn the way people work with applications.

With its focus on enabling Web apps to run faster and richer, Chrome poses a threat to the landscape of installed software--one that Microsoft relies on for its dominant Windows operating system (OS) and Office productivity products.

"[Chrome's] launch starts with the assertion that browsers need to become application platforms...Google seeks to expand from search to applications by delivering a better platform for richer Web applications, which is less dependent on the underlying OS," said Lachal.

Second, Chrome is touted to be faster, stable and more secure than the competition--including Internet Explorer.

However, Microsoft is keen to counter that argument with an upcoming beta update of its Internet Explorer 8 browser.

Richard Francis, general manager, Windows client group, at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, said in an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia that the new features in Microsoft's upcoming browser are "a big step forward" from previous versions.

Among which, are various performance improvements and "smarter" search capabilities that index the user's history, to suggest search results for users based on "the way [they] browse the Web", he said.

A war between open and closed source browsers
Ovum's Lachal said Mozilla has less to worry about, given Chrome's open source status; he sees the two open source browsers having "more chance against Microsoft than one". Furthermore, Google's renewed funding partnership with Mozilla till 2011 will keep Firefox alive for at least another three years, Lachal added.

Linus Upson, Google engineering director, also reiterated this funding deal, in a telepresence briefing with journalists in Singapore on Wednesday. "We want to see Firefox be successful...we want to grow the market share for all open source browsers," he said.

However, competing browser company, Opera, is not looking to go open source. A spokesperson from Opera told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail response: "Currently, Opera has no plans to go open source. We are strong supporters of open source, but our main focus is open Web standards."

She said: "We're always ready for a new browser war. Opera has more than 400 browser developers on staff," adding that the company is still hiring.

But Opera may have less interest in the desktop space. It relies on mobile and device-based versions of its browser for revenue, while its desktop version is provided for free. "Keep in mind that Opera's position in the market is not just about desktop PCs. We are continuing our cross-platform approach [on multiple devices]," said its spokesperson.

Not a browser war, but a Web application framework war
Sridhar Vembu, CEO of online office productivity suite, Zoho, said in an e-mailed statement the biggest winners in Chrome's entry are Web apps.

"Web apps like us need a really good JavaScript engine," and developments in that aspect--including Chrome's much-touted V8 engine and Firefox's upcoming TraceMonkey bode well for Web apps' performance, he said.

Vembu added: "The biggest losers in Google’s announcement are not really competing browsers, but competing rich client engines like Flash and Silverlight.

"As for Silverlight, let me just say that if Silverlight is the future of Web computing, companies like us might as well find another line of work--and I suspect Google and Yahoo probably see it the same way too."

According to Opera, faster rendering engines are not the be-all of browser advantages. "All the leading browsers are upgrading their core rendering engines. So is Opera.

"We don't believe that one rendering engine will make the difference on its own. It's about the total user experience, not just about how quickly a browser renders JavaScript," said its spokesperson.

Mozilla could not respond by press time.

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