What Is Google Really Doing With Chrome?

Google's decision to release new beta versions of its Chrome browser again raise questions about what the company hopes Chrome will accomplish. Is Chrome merely a browser, or is intended to be something more important?

There as those who refer to Chrome as the foundation of operating system that, when complete, will allow Google to compete more directly with Microsoft for control of the desktop.

Chrome certainly helps JavaScript work faster and also separates browser sessions so that if one crashes it will not slow down the others. That would be an important feature for a browser looking to become an operating system.

But, what of Android? Google already has a real operating system for mobile devices, one that some say is poised to overtake the functionality of the forthcoming iPhone 3.0. There is speculation Android will find its way onto netbooks and wild speculation it will morph into a desktop OS.

I have written previously that I don't think Google needs for Android to become a desktop operating system.

There is plenty of action and opportunity in the handset and netbook space that doesn't require fully building out a desktop OS. Google can avoid a head-on with Microsoft where it's strong (on the desktop) and compete where Redmond is weak (on mobile platforms).

Using Chrome as an environment that competes with the operating system as an enabler of applications makes much more sense than turning Android into a desktop OS. It also has the potential to support applications capable of running on any platform that supports the Chrome browser.

I think that approach makes a lot of sense, but is not limited to Chrome. I keep expecting Apple to do something with Safari on Windows that gives the company a greater role on that operating system.

Internet Explorer could someday support extensions tying it to Microsoft's cloud computing and Web-based applications, though anti-trust considerations make it hard for Microsoft to do anything that might lock-out other browsers.

Turning the browser into an operating system replacement won't be easy and it's hard to see any company being able to do something important that the others cannot soon copy. If anything, the current crop of browser betas seem to be converging despite each developer's attempt to innovate.

Regardless, it's fun being treated to a new "browser war." So far, users seem to be the only real winners.

David Coursey still has scars from the first browser wars. Write to him using the contact for him at www.coursey.com/contact.

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