Google is NOT making their own web browser

September 2, 2008 by A.B. Dada  
Filed under Google

Chicago, IL

By A.B. Dada

Over at Om Malik’s blog in a post titled Why is Google Releasing a Browser?, I posted the following comment:

I don’t believe that Google thinks they themselves are releasing a browser. They’re not. A web browser has always been about one thing: rendering web sites correctly, but still making the user aware what they’re running.

What Google is obviously doing with Chrome is getting rid of the web browser and replacing it with a transparent new platform. The web when it started was merely a one-way device: showing people information. With the advent of AJAX and other two-way forms of communications between the client and the server, we’re returning to the days of pre-Microsoft’s rule of the desktop platform. I said for years (starting back when I ran a multinode BBS in the 90s) that client-server would reign supreme.

Google knows this. Operating systems, as they run today, are aging and will slowly die. Wasting trillions of unused processor ops while your PC sits dormant is a huge waste of resources and energy. With the return of the client-server environment, shared resources will be the most efficient way to create a more useful network. Google knows this, as well.

As we progress to faster forms of wide area networking (”the Internet”), the difference between locally installed and maintained applications and remotely access applications will get slimmer and slimmer. Remotely accessed applications offer non-power users a great enhancement: never updating applications, never worrying about security or bug fixes, never worrying about installing applications that may be incompatible with whatever OS or other app you’re running, and having a remote store for your data, which can be backed up without your intervention.

Google is wise to go forward with a transparent platform for their future apps. Google Docs is a huge boon for my business. I use it 2-3 hours a day, and haven’t loaded Microsoft Office or OpenOffice in months. Google Mail for Domains is also amazing, as I never have to worry about archiving or backing up my emails. Google only has one issue right now: the compatibility of the user platform.

With Chrome, Google has taken a step forward to getting rid of the browser entirely, not making a new one. They’re ready to take over the desktop by giving users an excellent option: not worrying about what they’re running on their end, and allowing Google to freely maintain the users’ applications and data, transparently, safely, securely, and even at no cost.

Microsoft is screwed.

I truly believe that Google is marketing Chrome as a web browser, but in fact they want nothing to do with web browsing.  Website are Google’s secondary source of income through the AdWords/AdSense partnership, with Google’s search engine offering their main source of income through the same program.  But Google’s desire to be the search champion is unimportant in the long run.  What Google is doing looks back to what I’ve been saying for 2 decades: the desktop is dead, and client-server will reign supreme.

When I was 15 years old, I realized that if humanity ever discovered an instantaneous, delay-free form of communications (SciFi then, but a true possibility in my own lifetime), processors and computers at the home or office would be useless.  The computer you’re using right now to read this is wasting billions, even trillions of operations per week.  While you pause to read a single word, your PC is sitting basically dormant, sucking up energy, occupying your processor with an idle task of waiting.  The server that is giving you this page is doing something else: it’s maintaining hundreds, maybe thousands of sites, divvying up its own processor constantly to share amongst the domains it hosts.

Google has taken Microsoft by storm by offering their magnificent Google Docs online application: a free server-hosted set of programs similar to Word, Excel and Outlook.  I use all of them daily.  My own domain email is hosted, freely, by Google Mail for Domains.  It’s exceptional.

With Google Docs, I don’t think about backing up my data (I still do), because Google hosts it.  They handle making sure the data is available.  I don’t have to buy software, install software, worry about patches or compatibility issues, or spend even one penny frettying about a budget.  Google owns it, I use it, and I’m happy with it.

The problem Google has always had is incompatibility on the user end.  Because there are so many web browsers, Google spends an incredible amount of time making sure their free web applications run properly on all the various browsers and versions.  Google doesn’t want to have to do that.  Chrome is not a web browser, it is an operating system.  It is meant to run transparently, instead of logo’d and branded such as Firefox or Internet Explorer.  Google will still have to support all the other browsers, but by having their own, they can work hard to make sure that it works with the applications the web users want.

Over time, the idea that users will care about Windows or OS/X or Linux will slowly pass from the mainstream thought.  The web, and the client-server atmosphere, will be more important than what you run at home.  Theoretically, with an efficient and fast web operating system (“browser”), you could have a computer with 64MB of RAM or less, with no hard drive, and only have a screen, a keyboard, a mouse device, a WiFi or 3G connection, and you’re set.  The processor won’t matter (sorry Intel).  The RAM won’t matter (sorry Kingston).  The hard drive won’t matter (sorry Seagate).

We’ll still need high end PCs for gaming, but even that may go away depending on how efficient and fast communications is.  As the web gets faster (not in overall speed, but in reduced latency), Google applications, and other web apps, will be more important to the corporate and home and education users.  Google knows this.

As I said in my GigaOm comments, Microsoft is screwed.  So is Intel, Seagate, and anyone else still relying primarily on the desktop operations of the past rather than focusing on the more efficient and future-strong client-server market.

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