Google Inc. added another front in its battle against Microsoft Corp. by introducing Chrome, its new Internet browser. The search group has staked its future on free online software. Yet Microsoft’s dominance in browsers has the potential to act as impediment. Its browser may not work well with Google’s online tools. If enough users download Chrome, Google could take this potential club away from Microsoft.
Microsoft knows how this game works. It has long used its dominance to help new products gain a leg-up. By making Internet Explorer the default option for Windows, it pushed early browser Netscape Navigator aside.
But the new battlefield is cloud computing, where utilities such as word processing, spreadsheets and email are served online—and often for free—rather than on the desktop, where Microsoft makes its margin-busting profits. Google has rapidly become the Microsoft of the online space.
If it can team the browser up with cool and easy-to-use applications, the software may quickly become popular.
After all, Microsoft’s position isn’t impregnable. Internet Explorer may own 74% of the browser market, but Mozilla’s Firefox browser has been able to gain a 20% share in less than four years—and without the kind of money Google can boast of.
If users are content to use free online applications, and these applications work together smoothly, the value of Windows—or any operating system—is reduced sharply. Microsoft’s position looks shakier with each Google push into cloud computing.