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Google Chrome Shakes Browser Market

Google announces Chrome, a Web browser that will challenge Internet Explorer, Firefox and other market leaders.

Just days after Microsoft released the second beta of Internet Explorer 8, Google Inc. unexpectedly made what could be its largest assault on Redmond to date -- the release of its own Web browser.

Called Chrome, the first beta of Google's open source Web browser promises to shake up a sector now dominated by Microsoft's IE, Mozilla Foundation's Firefox and -- to a lesser extent -- Opera and Apple Safari.

Chrome takes advantage of WebKit, the open source rendering engine also used in Google's forthcoming Android platform, which the company is rolling out for mobile handsets. In a blog post by Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, the company's engineering director, they state that WebKit makes more efficient use of system memory than other Web-rendering engines.

Google Chrome Google Chrome bears the company's trademark clean interface, but the browser hopes to win over organizations and end users with a more robust code foundation. Google says Chrome isolates each browser tab in its own sandbox, preventing the entire browser from crashing when one page fails -- a technique recently adopted by rival browsers. According to Google, Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine boosts performance by generating machine code from the JavaScript source that can run directly on the processor.

Platform Play
Forrester Research Inc. analyst Redwan Iqbal praises some of the ideas in Chrome, but says Google faces an uphill battle against established browsers. "I don't think there will be a big market impact unless there are radical performance differences. There's little pain for Chrome to heal."

But IDC Program Director Al Hilwa claims that Chrome is setting its sights higher. He says Google could actually act on what Netscape could only talk about back in the 1990s: transforming the browser into an operating system.

"Good ideas are not enough. You need power players," Hilwa says. "This is Google's platform play: It's really becoming the new operating system, and over time this is going to be a significant threat [to Microsoft]."

Click to see the Google Chrome Comic Slide ShowChrome's Challenges
Google took the unconventional approach of describing how Chrome works in an online comic strip, which can be seen by clicking here.

The strip illustrates the issue related to asynchronous APIs that rely on single-threaded JavaScript sessions, which lock up browsers until the session is complete. Rather than develop a multithreaded browser, Google developed Chrome to employ multiple processes, each with its own memory.

"We're applying the same kind of process isolation you find in modern operating systems," Google software engineer Arnaud Weber is portrayed as saying in the comic strip.

Google's largest challenge with Chrome may not be technical, says M. Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Park City, Utah-based management consulting firm Janco Associates Inc. He says Google will have to improve its responsiveness to customers if it hopes for Chrome to shine.

"The quality of their interaction with their customers today is poor at best," Janulaitis says.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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