Can Chrome Lure Developers?
When Google Inc. jumped into the browser pool last month by releasing the Windows beta of its open source browser Chrome, the widely anticipated move shook the IT industry.
But the most important impact that Chrome may have is the one least talked about: Its role in advancing Google's broad platform ambitions.
"I thought it was very interesting that in their announcement, Google came right out and said it, using the magic words: It's a platform," observes Brad Silverberg, who at Microsoft in the mid-1990s guided the launch of Windows 95 and led Redmond's successful "Internet turnaround" effort.
"Clearly Google has the depth and breadth of talent, as well as a deep understanding of ... developing Web apps to be a serious contender," says Silverberg, the founding partner of venture captial firm Ignition Partners. "A question that remains is, how serious is Google? Is this something really important to them, or just something that's meant to distract Microsoft?"
Just in Time, Scripted
"What Google is trying to do is turn the browser 'scripting' environment-I use scare-quotes because once the script's compiled, it's not really script anymore-into a just-in-time compiler that turns the client-side component of Web applications into true binary executables," Brust explains. "Really, this means that V8 in Chrome competes with the CLR [Common Language Runtime] in Silverlight."
No surprise, Microsoft is among them.
Rockford Lhotka, principal technology evangelist at Golden Valley, Minn.-based Magenic Technologies Inc. and a contributor to Redmond Developer News' sister publication Visual Studio Magazine, said on a panel at VSLive! New York last month that he believes Google is targeting Chrome as an alternative to Silverlight and Flash.
||"Microsoft does complete, utter, crummy, crappy work when they don't have competition. They know it and those who have been around the business for awhile know it too."
|Richard Hale Shaw, CEO, Richard Hale Shaw Group
Google did well to commit to open Web technologies with Chrome, added Richard Hale Shaw, CEO of Richard Hale Shaw Group, a consultancy in Cambridge, Mass. "I think it makes a lot of sense for Google to invent Chrome because they leverage existing technologies," said Shaw, who was on the same panel as Lhotka. "Heck, that's what Web services are-it's just leveraging HTTP and XML. There's nothing scientific about it at all."
Google: The Unplatform
It was a threat that Silverberg, as head of the then newly minted Internet Platform and Tools Division at Microsoft, helped put down. He says that Google brings a lot more to the table than Netscape ever did, including more applications, developer talent and cash. And Google clearly thinks the time is now for a Web-only platform.
||"I know a bunch of ex-Microsoft folks who went to Google with the idea of building a platform, but most have left by now, saying Google just doesn't have platform DNA."
|Brad Silverberg, Founding Partner, Ignition Partners
"The Web has become the de facto platform of our era-the platform for application developers. Instead of writing for Windows or Mac or Linux, developers can instead write for the Web, targeting the client that you can be sure every user has: the Web browser," according to the Google spokesperson. "Google is betting big on this open Web platform, and we're deeply interested in advancing this platform to enable richer, more powerful applications."
|Preparing for IE8
Even as Chrome has earned market share, developers are preparing for the arrival of Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, which went to beta 2 in August. Dev shops need to get ready for the new browser, says Robert Boedigheimer, a programmer with the Schwan Food Co., who last month gave a presentation at the VSLive! New York conference highlighting key new capabilities of IE8.
Boedigheimer urges developers to begin testing IE8 right away. They should consider taking advantage of improvements to AJAX, CSS and the Selectors API, as well as Accelerators and Web Slices. Among the issues highlighted in his presentation:
Get all the details here.
- Browser Modes
- Document Compatibility
- Web Slices
- AJAX Enhancements
- CSS Improvements
- Developer Tools
-- Jeffrey Schartz
Silverberg says if anything is going to hold back Google's platform ambitions, it's Google itself. "I know a bunch of ex-Microsoft folks who went to Google with the idea of building a platform, but most have left by now, saying Google just doesn't have platform DNA," he explains.
"They left [Microsoft] because they believed in the Internet and they didn't think Microsoft would ever really get the Internet," he adds. "They saw Google got the Internet but didn't get the platform. These were all super-star kinds of people-the exact people I would hire if I wanted to build a platform, and especially if I were running Google. But many of them have left Google, frustrated with the lack of platform DNA, commitment and an overly consensus-oriented decision-making process."
"If Google wants real momentum for V8, then they need real tools for V8. Most corporate developers like and need rich IDEs to get their work done," Brust says. "Microsoft is currently second-to-none in this department, and they recognize how much that helps Windows as a platform. They get it."
Ultimately, he explains, what Chrome, V8 and Google Gears have done-at least for now-is capture developer attention.
"The real threat to Microsoft here isn't Chrome and V8 per se, but rather their influence in encouraging people to imagine, and even yearn for, a world of software that's fundamentally different from today's Windows landscape," says Brust. "Chrome, V8 and Gears are, at the very least, a powerful proof-of-concept that may change minds, even if they don't completely win them."
Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.