For all the talk about Google's Chrome browser and whether it's a Web operating system, platform for applications and future Microsoft killer it's quite possible that folks are overthinking the search giant's intentions. Perhaps Google's browser is really about protecting its ad backside.
Sure, Google's browser (Techmeme)--designed to compete with Internet Explorer and potentially Mozilla's Firefox (see Mozilla's rebuttal)--is about Web applications, grabbing share and integrating a bunch of properties ranging from Gmail to Google Apps and certainly the search box. The strategic possibilities--not to mention the prognostications--are endless. But the money men on Wall Street are boiling Chrome down to a key point: It's all about the ads and saving its cookies, those small files used to tailor ads for users.
Also see: Google's Chrome: The enterprise playbook
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Merrill Lynch analyst Justin Post pays homage to Chrome's technical features--working better with Web applications, easier multimedia and better use of tabs--but adds that Microsoft's privacy feature could be used to minimize the effectiveness of Google's ads. Would the DoubleClick acquisition be worth much if cookies were nuked at every turn in the name of privacy? That's what IE's privacy feature--also known as porn mode--could do. That threat from Microsoft isn't as large if Google bundles Chrome with all of its free consumer applications and paid enterprise versions.
Post writes in a research note that Chrome could "limit Microsoft’s ability to use its IE browser position to promote Microsoft search, or harm Google’s search effectiveness through new user controls."
Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay puts it better:
We see this move as inevitable for Google which relies upon the browser as its primary access path to its users and the primary vehicle for delivering its ads. Not having control of the browser cedes control of this key element and its development path to competitors such as Microsoft with Internet Explorer (72% share of the browser market) or Apple with Safari (6% share of the browser market). Google management says it will maintain its relationship with the Mozilla/Firefox team (20% share of the browser market) which has been Google's primary alternative technology to date.
Chrome reduces the opportunities for competitors to "mess with the cookies". An interesting and welcome feature of Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 8 is its "privacy" mode. While we think the ability to browse privately is both a welcome development for consumers and also a feature of Chrome, we think that it signaled a long-expected threat that Microsoft or Apple could "mess with the cookies" that are critical to the functioning of the online advertising network/exchanges such as DoubleClick. By developing its own browser Google can simply eliminate that threat.
UBS analyst Benjamin Schachter agrees with Lindsay and Post, but notes that Chrome is really about controlling the user experience and playing some defense. Schachter says that Google's decision to launch Chrome is partially based on the "the potential that Microsoft may get more aggressive with the browser as we get further away from the court rulings about the operating system."