September 16, 2009

Google Introduces Updated Chrome Browser

Search engine giant Google has launched a new and improved version of its Chrome browser, with a version for the Mac on the way.

It has been almost one year to date since Google made its high profile debut into the browser market, which is dominated by Microsoft Corp. Google is currently ranked in distant fourth place with a market share of roughly 2.8 percent.

Chrome is much more to the company than a browser, it represents a much broader objective to create a new Web-based operating system that could wrestle the computer software market out of Microsoft's strong grip.

Google is preparing a slew of updates, as well as efforts to bring together new distribution partnerships to eventually make Chrome a more powerful contender.

"If at the two-year birthday we're not at least 5 percent (market share), I will be exceptionally disappointed. And if at the three year birthday we're not at 10 percent, I will be exceptionally disappointed," Chrome Engineering Director Linus Upson said.

Upson also made the point that the internal goals are much higher than just doubling shares every year.

Google Product Management Vice President Sundar Pichai said in the interview with Reuters that the Mac version of Chrome, which is currently undergoing a testing period, will be released to the public by the end of the year.

Released on Tuesday, Chrome 3.0 for PCs sports many improvements to the browser's interface, such as speedy performance and "themes" that allow users to personalize the appearance of the browser.

According to analysts,  Chrome's focus on performance has drawn many followers among the technologically inclined, but they say the company should do more in terms of broadening its appeal beyond the 30 million Google users they currently have.

"For people that care about it (speed), they've already made that switch," said Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeish. "By and large, it's a high hurdle to get people to pick-up and change technology they've been using for a while."

Market research firm Net Applications showed that Internet Explorer claimed about 67 percent of the worldwide browser market in August, while the Mozilla foundation's Firefox had 23 percent and Apple Inc's Safari browser had 4 percent.

Microsoft certainly has a leg up on the competition, considering the fact that its Internet Explorer comes pre-installed on Windows PCs. Gartner analyst Ray Valdes says this will be one more obstacle that Chrome will have to overcome.

Recently, Google signed a deal with Sony Corp to have Chrome pre-installed on certain Sony PCs, in order to give it the chance to reach a new pool of users. Without offering many details, Pichai said Google is discussing similar deals with all major PC manufacturers.

The Chrome browser may not make any money for Google, which made almost $22 billion in revenue last year, but it still plays an important strategic role in the company.

Google has often said that anything that enhances the online experience will in turn reap benefits for its Internet advertising business. Chrome is even more than that for Google, as it serves as an important bridge to developing online software such as email and word processing. The software is free to consumers, but Google sells enterprise- grade versions to corporations.


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