I've Been Chrome'd !

Like many techno folks, I have been test driving Google’s Chrome browser for much of this past week, and I have to say that I really like it. There has been more than enough press about it as well as much speculation about Google’s motives, what this does to Mozilla, what does it mean for Microsoft, etc. , so I won’t duplicate that here. At the end of the day what interests me personally is:

  • Chrome is fast, offering a better Web user experience than Microsoft’s Explorer when accessing modern, open standards and standards based web sites – if you hit a site using proprietary extensions then the results are mixed
  • I like that it is Open Source, so I expect Mozilla (which is still receiving funding from Google), Opera and others to adopt some of the features in upcoming releases – Microsoft on the other hand is unlikely to use Google contributed code as they prefer to create or buy their own intellectual property, as that is after all how they make money
  • a key point is that Chrome is focused on secure support of web based applications, and of social web applications – the Web 2.0 and 3.0 environment – and as such is positioned for the future rather than committed to supporting the past. This is important as while the internet infrastructure globally is at best marginal to support this model currently, eventually it will be.
  • for for a beta solution ( and like pretty much everything else Google offers, it is beta) it is a good technical demonstration of off-line web services capability using Google Gears. Offline capability as demonstrated in Google Reader , Google Docs and Zoho is critical for the web based applications environment generally, but is especially so for the mobility environment – more on this later.
  • Chrome will not be installed on most new PC’s and laptops sold globally as they generally come pre-loaded with Microsoft products, so the likelyhood of Chrome and other competing solutions becoming mainstream on the PC platform in the short term is slim at best. The ‘average user’ is generally just going to use what is provided and never know or really care about other options, and although corporate customers may be attracted to lower cost applications delivery options, their freedom of movement is limited by their investment in their legacy applications portfolio.

Considering the last two points, ‘user’ and corporate inertia may not matter in the longer term as the growth area for user compute devices globally is the ultra mobility (the ASUS eee PC for example) and the hand held platform space. The growth of wireless handsets in places like China and India has been amazing (according to India’s TRAI, 8.5 million wireless subscribers were added just in February and the Chinese Ministry of Information recently said there were already 250 million cellular phones in China compared with 140 million in the USA, and China is adding about 6 to 7 million users per month). Although shareholders and corporate managers generally reward short term gain rather than longer term thinking, I suspect that by positioning itself to support the rapidly evolving mobility applications platform, Google may be demonstrating that ‘vision’ thing many people in business like to talk about, but generally don’t actually have. 

For the moment at least, I’m a happy Google Chrome user on my Windows XP box, and I will be installing it on my Linux machines as soon as a native version (and yes I realise that you can run it under wine) becomes readily available. And of course, I’m also looking forward to getting Chrome on a mobile phone whenever one becomes available in Canada – I see T-Mobile plans an Android release later this month, and that Android may eventually include Chrome functionality, so perhaps there will be an offering on this side of the border some time in late 2009 – possibly a good Christmas gift !

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