Tuesday, September 2

Next Up, Google Hard Drive Defragmenters

It seems Google forgot one of the universal truths that has made them so much money = consumers are complete slackers online. They have no patience for anything that requires an extra click, a few extra seconds of downloads, or sites that aren't intuitive for 5 year olds. It's why millions of people use their search engine every day. They are too lazy to try to find it themselves.

Which is why their announcement this week of a Google web browser -- codenamed Chrome -- is so odd.

The web browser wars between IE, Netscape, and AOL (before they acquired Netscape and then decided to use an IE-powered browser instead) are soooo 1998. Antitrust lawsuits aside, the main reason IE didn't lose its dominance is because it was such a pain in the ass for users to download a separate standalone browser and keep it up to date.

Sure it was part of the internet experience, back when every new browser offered new capabilities -- HTML table layouts! Frames! Newsgroup readers! Java applets! Audio! But users quickly tired of the PR battles and the endless upgrades. Then Netscape Communicator launched and sucked worse than the previous release, permanently nailing it in its underdog coffin.

Since then IE has dominated. True, Firefox (the rebirth of the good guys from Netscape's ashes) has made some headway and now claims 20% of browser share. But they don't have a revenue model and are primarily user-supported (think of a Wikipedia approach to software development), so I doubt Microsoft really cares.

I can see an initial rush of Google browser downloads by the tech savvy and curious. But the average consumer? Maybe at the insistence of their teenage kids. But once those kids get their own computer, or Dad upgrades his, then I doubt you'll see the Chrome icon anymore.

But Google has a track record of launching things to annoy its competition, or just plain jumpstart a stagnant industry. They put Mapquest on its heels by launching a superior user interface with Google Maps. Forced the telecoms to open up cellphone bandwidth for neutral device makers with their "failed" $4.6 billion bid for the 700MHZ spectrum. They will give iPhone and Microsoft a few sleepless nights with their Andromeda mobile phone operating system. They even sponsored development of a 100 MPG electric car.

Why would they get involved in things like online maps and mobile phones? Oh, yeah, potential advertising space. Electric cars? I'm sure it is more than just philanthropy.

Maybe this head fake is another attempt to provoke innovation in a space where the last technical advance was the autofill button for webpage forms. Or just another way to get that really relevant paid text link in front of you.

Be part of a historical footnote. Download Chrome now.

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