As anyone that turned on a device in any way connected to the Internet on September 2, 2008 realizes, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) launched its Windows-based Chrome browser into beta test. Sundar Pichai, Google Vice President of Product Management, said:
“We think of the browser as the window to the web – it’s a tool for users to interact with the web sites and applications they care about, and it’s important that we don’t get in the way of that experience."
A comic book reportedly explains this in more detail.
Google is describing an idea that is 10 years old. It includes incremental features over today's technology but these features are reportedly also included in Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer’s latest beta. Users like my wife and my grandchildren—neither of whom ever used a client/server application, even a word processor—know of no other “experience.” So there’s no “oh, wow” thing here to which the vast unwashed base of consumers can react. And since the computer-literate generation in between is increasingly managing its personal (e.g., Fantasy Football) and its employer’s personal productivity (thousands of applications, most inhouse developed) computing from the same platform, the idea of a new portal/browser experience will only be effective if Google also gets Quicken, Turbotax, Project, Autocad, etc.--plus all those inhouse developed apps--ported to its browser.
The description in the press release sounds to me like something we called Portal Mania 10 years ago. It heads users down the road described in this April 2001 article about portals in KMWorld. (The IDC report referenced is no longer available online from IDC for obvious reasons but is probably available from your IDC representative.) The only thing Google might recreate with a big effort on "Chrome as a browser" is the pressure cooker phenomenon. Supposedly in the 1960s—but this may be a marketing-professor urban legend--when everyone was reminded in an ad that pressure cookers blew up by a supplier who had added safety features to prevent its from blowing up, overall pressure cooker sales plummeted.
(I put “Chrome as a browser” in quotes above because there is a popular theory among the technology community that this is really an attempt to replace the Windows operating system on users' personal platform. This is technically possible, using some kind of appliance packaging, but it assumes Microsoft stands still for the 10-15 years it would take to make it happen.)