With Web Browser, Google Launches Volley at Microsoft

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 3, 2008

For Web users, it's now possible to have all Google, all the time.

With the launch of its browser yesterday, Google staked claim to one of the few areas of the Internet where it didn't already have a foothold and ratcheted up its ongoing competition with the behemoth Microsoft.

The 10-year-old company released Chrome, a new browser that some analysts said would allow Google to be the go-to resource for everything a Web surfer wants.

The search engine giant pushed its new Web-navigating software as being fast, secure and easy to use compared with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which holds about 80 percent of the browser market.

"There have been a lot of advances in the browser space," said Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google, in a news conference yesterday. "[But] we believe that browsers should evolve a lot more to keep pace with how the Web is evolving."

Tech industry analysts yesterday said the search engine company's move was not surprising because it would give it closer access to its Web-surfing users.

"This is long overdue," said Benjamin Schachter, an analyst with UBS Securities. "The idea that Google was going to let its fiercest competitor control the gateway for getting to it never made sense."

Schachter said it was too early to tell whether Chrome will be a success. Google has entered many markets in the past few years with a range of offerings, including efforts to simplify online shopping and organize medical records. In most areas, he said, Google hasn't made much of an impact.

"The technophiles will all download this and try it out," he said. "But the question is: Is this going to be compelling enough for the mainstream consumer? Will my mother use this?"

Until now, the search engine giant was satisfied to have its software applications "hitch-hike" as add-on programs for browsers such as Firefox, said Tim Bajarin, a tech industry analyst with Creative Strategies. Yesterday's browser launch is just the latest indication that "Google aspires to be everywhere," he said.

Tech industry analyst Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, saw a defensive element in Google's move to enter the browser market. Microsoft has sometimes tried to encourage Internet Explorer users to try its own search technology and other services, he said.

Microsoft released a short statement yesterday in response to Chrome's launch.

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