Google’s Chrome Is Poised to Come on Strong

1Executive Summary

Does Google’s open-source Chrome browser have the bright future that many people predicted it would upon its arrival a year ago — or is it yet another one of the search giant’s many software experiments? Despite charges that Google has dragged its feet in promoting Chrome, the browser has remained innovative, and there are now strong signs that it can wrest significant market share from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and advance overall innovation in browsers. Recently, a convergence of efforts from Google have helped push Chrome’s prospects, with indications of much more to come from the company.

After one year in existence, Google’s open-source browser has only 2.84 percent market share, while Internet Explorer has 66.97 percent and Mozilla Firefox (also open source) has 22.98 percent share and growing, according to NetApplications. Those numbers have caused many analysts to question whether Google has done enough to market its browser. The questions echo earlier concerns that many people had about whether Google was doing enough to promote its Android mobile operating system. Since those concerns were aired, though, the OS has shown signs of much more momentum, with almost 20 Android handsets due by the end of the year. There are some good reasons to believe that Chrome is about to do a similar zero-to-60 acceleration, and the three biggest ones are the company’s newfound willingness to spend money on high-profile deals with hardware makers; viable versions of Chrome for the Mac and Linux; and an upcoming open ecosystem of extensions for the browser.

In a move that could quickly be followed by similar deals, Google recently announced that it has partnered with consumer electronics giant Sony to make Chrome the default browser on all Sony VAIO computers. This is Chrome’s first distribution deal with a hardware vendor, and it’s hardly a small partnership. Many analysts are calling the deal a milestone — and it’s really a page right out of Microsoft’s playbook. A huge part of the reason why Internet Explorer has been leading browser market share is that Redmond has spent years striking deals with hardware vendors to make IE the default browser on their systems. It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that many people will use, and continue to use, the browser that greets them when they unbox a new computer. That’s true for business users and consumers alike.

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  1. The technologies that ‘win’ for me are the ones that I am drawn back to even when I try to go elsewhere. I tried Chrome, but I was a huge Firefox ‘power user’ and could never see myself giving up Surf Canyon or my beloved Ubiquity.

    Initially it was the speed that kept bringing me back to Chrome. But then a smaller not-often-commented on featured took hold – the ability to save sites in an ‘application format’ with the browsing chrome removed and shortcuts (with easy to differentiate icon graphics) for the start bar or desktop.

    I am a big user of web apps. Though I am an IT professional, working in a big wintel organisation, and a personal user of Apple, I hardly ever open a new word document or spreadsheet when I want to start some new work. It’s always a SharePoint list, or a Google Document, or A Mind Mapper chart. The only old-paradigm app that remains in standard rotation is my exchange client.

    The web is already my application platform. (Note that: The OS is going back to where it started – being the software ‘platform’ that runs my machine.) The main game are the platforms that run applications. The reason Chrome is winning me over is that unlike the other browsers, which are designed primarily with the consumption of media as the core function, Chrome’s builders seem to think that running applications is what the browser is all about.

    It’s subtle, but it is obvious to users like me, who use the web far more to run apps than access media, that Chrome is built for what I do.

    If it ‘wins’ (which I would consider an double digit market share) it will be because it keeps winning over those of us for whom the web is a productivity platform first and a media platform second.

  2. Chrome has been my primary browser for one year now. I’ve been on the Dev channel the whole time. Have not had many issues/crashes. Definitely meets my needs better than IE or Firefox. I’ve tried Safari for Windows. It’s okay but I find the interface a bit cumbersome. Before Chrome I never enjoyed using browsers. It’s a nice app. Chrome FTW!

  3. @Pierre-Marie – I think Sam’s argument isn’t vastly far off from your last point – he points to echosystem/developer traction for Chrome as a major accelerator going forward.

    Overall, I think its the accumulated impact of new PC OEM deals, increasing add-ons/plugin support, and maturation of the browser that will help it gain market share. I think Google hasn’t really pushed Chrome in a big way as they were letting the platform mature a bit. I think that will change over the next year (and we can see the beginnings of this with them actively seeking PC OEM deals as with Sony).

  4. Pierre-Marie Guyonvarch Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Sorry but I found this article poorly argumented.
    How can you state that “many Safari users will opt for Chrome when they have the option” (on MacOS)?
    Where did you pick up that “Safari… is significantly slower than Chrome”? Ars technica made a test which tells the opposite (http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2009/08/safari-still-fastest-shipping-browser-webkit-tops-chrome.ars). Although, things may change very quickly in this field.
    Overall, why do you say that “Google’s chrome is poised to come on strong”? The only argument I found in your article is the fact that Google signed an agreement with Sony to put Chrome as the default browser on their VIAO computers and there are more to come. Is that all?

    I’m not saying that your wrong. I do think that the browser will be the OS as it has already been said. In this perspective, Chrome is the tool that Google will you use to distribute web apps without relying on the other web browsers to be compliant with HTML5. I think Eric Schmidt was pretty clear about this at Google IO 2009.
    So, if Chrome succeed, it will be the result of an ecosystem more than the browser itself.

  5. Another Google technology I can read about but not use. Google Voice, Google Wave, Google Chrome… Will teasing the customer lead to a loss of good will?

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