Google, the king of search, is often touted as Microsoft’s most potent challenger. Fueled by its meteoric rise through a competitive search market and shrouded in secrecy, Google is surrounded by a cloud of confusion. It has rolled out a series of products that compete with Microsoft’s dominant businesses, including GMail (competes with Hotmail and Exchange), Google Docs (competes with Microsoft Office), and Android (Smartphone and mobile device platform). None of Google’s newer products have achieved the penetration or dominance that it has in search, leaving many to question its ability to compete outside of its core business, or worse that it has lost focus.
Google’s Chrome products, a web browser and newly announced operating system, are designed to grow the market size for its core advertising business by stimulating interest in the internet infrastructure space. Chrome, Google’s web browser, brought a critical change to browser architecture: multi-process browsing. With traditional browser technology, errors or malfunctions in a tab cause the entire browser application to slow or fail. With multi-process browsing, failure in a single browser tab will be isolated to the tab. In the context of cloud computing, where data storage, chat, e-mail, word processing, and multimedia consumption reside in web browser tabs, stability of the browser becomes critical. Shortly after Chrome’s first beta was released, Microsoft and Firefox set out to mimic this crucial feature. Accordingly, while Google Chrome will never be a major player in the web browser market, the impact of its entry will help to pave the way for cloud computing.
Similarly, Chrome OS will succeed by inducing innovation in the OS market. Chrome OS will aim to strip out operating system size and complexity, and focus on a simple task: getting the user onto the web. This will have the added benefits of reduced power load, markedly easier security, and fewer crashes. Whether Google Chrome exceeds Apple OS X or Windows market share is irrelevant to the success of the venture, so long as Microsoft, Apple, and other technology players mimic Chrome’s key innovations.
While Google Docs might never replace or match the Microsoft Office franchise, it induces investment and innovation in the market for web based office productivity software. With Chrome OS and other products, Google is lowering the barriers to widespread adoption of the cloud computing model. The company will grow as the web is used to access and consume applications, data, media, and other services, by collecting demographic information and delivering targeted, relevant advertisements.
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