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Monday, September 1, 2008

Google Launches Google Chrome to Compete in the Browser Market

Google will today launch its own web browser called Google Chrome in another expansion by the search giant into the building blocks of the internet.

Google Chrome will take on the might of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which dominates the browser market with a 74 per cent share.

News of the beta launch of the product in 100 countries came yesterday with the leaking of a 28-page comic book by Google to a blog, Google Blog-oscoped, which outlined the specifications and innovations in the new browser with a series of illustrations.

It said that Chrome would feature a new format for tabs, the ability to view web pages as thumbnails and better features on the address bar.

There have been rumours about a Google browser for years and reports suggested that Chrome has been in development for at least two years.

Google confirmed the launch in the blog and said: “We can add value for users and, at the same time, help drive innovation on the web. We realised that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that’s what we set out to build.”

Initially it will be for Windows users, but versions for Mac and Linux will be available soon, the blog said.

The software is being written with Webkit, the open-source engine at the heart of Apple’s Safari and Google’s Android platforms. The browser is also getting a new Javascript virtual machine, V8, which is said to be better for complex and rich Web applications. The move pitches Google into a straight fight with Microsoft. One report said that Google had become concerned that Internet Explorer 7 could make it easier for Microsoft to direct users to its own search service.

Until now Google has supported other browsers, notably the open-source Mozilla Firefox browser. Google and Mozilla last week renewed their agreement, due to expire in November, extending it until 2011.

Bidding to dominate not only what people do on the Web but how they get there, Google Inc. plans to release a Web browser today to compete with the likes of Internet Explorer and Firefox.

It's yet another salvo in the company's intensifying battle with Microsoft Corp., which last week released a beta, or test, version of Explorer 8 that makes it easier to block ads from Google and others.

"This is the first truly serious threat that Microsoft has faced from a well-funded platform," said technology analyst Rob Enderle, president of the Enderle Group.

A beta version of the Google browser, called Chrome, will be available for download by Windows computer users in more than 100 countries. Chrome will offer features that make it easier, faster and safer to browse the Web, the Mountain View, Calif., search giant said in a blog postMonday.

Google has long ruled how people search the Web. Now it is going after how they navigate it, analysts say.

"We like this move by Google and believe it can help to increase or at least maintain its leading search market share," Needham & Co. analyst Mark May said in an e-mail. "As the starting point for nearly every user's Internet experience, the browser is important online real estate. The market share gains by Firefox in a short period of time show to us that users are looking for better browser experiences."

One feature will allow consumers to run Web-based applications independently, which means that if one program crashes it won't take down the whole browser.

By improving the reliability of such online services, Chrome could mark another step in the Web browser's drive to supersede the computer operating system in importance, said Matt Rosoff, analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a research firm focused on Microsoft products and business strategy.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft holds a virtual monopoly in operating systems, but their importance in the computing landscape is diminishing as Web-based programs become the starting point for many users.

Chrome will be an open-source product, meaning anyone can modify the software code and add features.

Internet Explorer General Manager Dean Hachamovitch said the browser market was "highly competitive," and that he remained confident consumers would stick with Microsoft's product.

Google executives have expressed concern over the years that Microsoft could use its dominant browser to route consumers to its own search engine, which has sputtered despite years of effort and billions of dollars in investment.

Internet Explorer 8 lets consumers surf the Web without having the websites they visit tracked. Google and other Internet companies -- including Microsoft -- use such information to finely target the ads they display.

People who use Chromecould give Google even more information about their Web-surfing habits.

Launching a browser war with Microsoft is a bold move for Google because Microsoft controls nearly 75% of the market. It also could spell trouble for Firefox, a free browser that is gaining popularity but still trails far behind Explorer.

The Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit organization that runs Firefox, has benefited from engineering help and money from Google. In 2005, Google hired the lead engineer behind Firefox, who splits his time between Google and Mozilla. Just last week, the two extended their partnership, which makes Google the browser's default search engine, through 2011.

Also potentially vulnerable in a browser war are Opera and Apple Inc.'s Safari, which have captured a much smaller fraction of users.

News about Chrome, though rumored for years, broke Monday after the website Google Blogoscoped reported receiving a comic book from Google that outlined the details of the new browser. A Google blog post later explained that it had inadvertently released the news.

"We believe we can add value for users and, at the same time, help drive innovation on the Web," the post said.

The browser, which Google says was built from scratch, has been in the works for two years. It is intended as a "modern platform for Web pages and applications" that can run faster and be more responsive, according to the post.

Even coming from a universally known brand such as Google, a browser might not catch on. Google may encounter resistance from consumers, who typically switch browsers out of frustration, not for new features, Enderle said.

Rosoff said Google will attract its share of "curiosity seekers" and can rely on distribution deals to increase its market share.

"I think this could be a real contender," he said.

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