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Microsoft Versus Google - The Battle Lines Are SO Expanding

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/31/2008

The headlines scream from the rooftops that Google's Chrome browser is a shot at the heart of Microsoft. And, they're missing the point! It's a shot alright, but it isn't what you think.

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    The Headlines

    You've read them everywhere by now. It's even trickled down to your free on the street weekly newspapers. Google has released a new browser called Chrome, and that new browser is a direct shot at long time rival Microsoft. True, and true again. But missing the point entirely. While the newspapers slug it out with blogger comments and re-hashed press releases, let's get to the real deal.

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    Hidden Devices

    Google's Chrome browser is fast. How fast? I run Firefox all day long. Between research, email, publishing, web design, updating my blogs, reading the news, doing fun stuff, and just plain getting the information I need to run my day, I pretty much keep Firefox open 24/7. And not just open, LOADED. Tabs that fill all three rows (some tab extension gives me that) and then run off into the cosmos until I can close some. That's just in one window. I usually run three or four. Needless to say, I hit a ton of web sites, some repeatedly, so I have a pretty good feel for what is going on for many of them.

    Chrome is so fast that I sometimes find myself moving the mouse to re-click because I wonder why it hasn't loaded the next page yet only to realize that the page already loaded. In fact, it loaded so fast I didn't notice it reload.

    Pages that normally I have to delay hitting the Page Down button on my mouse in order to let all the graphics and junk load first in order to get to the link I need near the bottom of the page, load so fast, that I don't have to hesitate. I can't click fast enough.

    The one exception so far? Rapidshare. Terrible. Is it being blocked by Rapidshare? I mean, abysmal, I don't get it.

    Anyway, while everyone is touting the new speed and cool tab features, here's what you should be noticing if you care about the Microsoft v. Google battle.

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    New Javascript Engine

    For those of you who have been around computers at a high enough level for a while, you remember the original Java concept. For those of you who don't, let me re-cap. Java was developed and released by Sun Microsystems as a way, ironically, to loosen the grip of Microsoft on the computing world. The theory was that by using a virtual machine installed on any system, anywhere, running any OS, you could run Java applications on any computer whether Mac, PC, Unix, whatever. The catch was that in order to run Java, you needed to have a Java Virtual Machine, or VM. Well, Sun wrote them. But, Microsoft didn't use Sun's. They wrote their own. It was lousy. It was worse than lousy. It was slow, buggy, incompatible, and had new Windows only features in it. And, that killed Java. Because 99% of computer users that used Windows did so with only what Microsoft put on there by default, and the Java engine that Microsoft put on there was unusable, so the promise of being able to write your program only once and then run it everywhere died because you couldn't run it on Windows.

    Fast forward a few years, and a Java variant, JavaScript has become rather commonplace on the Internet. Microsoft still doesn't provide world class support for JavaScript, and is always the last to the JavaScript party. Basically, they drag their feet as long as they can before the users would notice, and then get on board at the last minute. But, that is only half the problem, because the truth is that JavaScript only works so well. It gets slow fast, and it hogs resources. Sure, IE, Firefox, Opera, and even Safari all support JavaScript, but as a major developer you can only go so far with JavaScript before you know you are pushing your luck, both in speed and stability.

    The release of Google's Chrome browser smashes this barrier. Google went out and hired a man, who by most reports, is the preeminent programmer of virtual machines, just like the one JavaScript uses. He put together a team and started from scratch with Google's blessing and cash. What they achieved was a JavaScript Virtual Machine called V8 that is 10 times faster than other Javascript engines. Why is this so important?

    By creating V8, and then giving it away as open source code, Google has forced Microsoft's hand in its development of Internet Explorer. Before, with every version of IE, there were other browsers that were better and faster, but never enough that there was a major backlash that resulted in people turning away from IE. Sure, savvy web users frequently investigate their options, but most people never do. No matter how many hard core computing sites or Internet blogs bash on IE it doesn't trickle down to John Doe. That is, unless IE is so much worse than other options that the mainstream media starts talking about how bad IE is (like they are doing now with Vista), Microsoft doesn't really have to bring its game up any more than an incremental notch or two. But, by releasing a super fast (and presumably stable) JavaScript engine into the open, Google has all but ensured that by the time IE 8.0 comes out that new and improved JavaScript will already be in, or on its way in, to every other browser. So, unless it wants to risk an article in something like Time Magazine showing just how much worse IE 8.0 is than all the others, Microsoft will have to improve its JavaScript implementation.

    So what? Ah, here is where the end game comes into focus. Google is a large powerful company with tons of cash and many developers. They can undertake the effort necessary to create something like Gmail and make it work well across all browsers. Many companies simply can't afford that in time or dollars. So, when decisions are made, a large JavaScript implementation might be skipped because even if it could be made to work well in one browser, re-coding it to function well in all browsers (more specifically to make it work worth a darn in IE) would take too much effort. But, when IE works just fine with a high-end JavaScript offering as well, now, companies have no disincentive for using JavaScript, and soon, Google won't be the only company offering a multitude of high-power applications which don't need Windows (or any operating system) and Microsoft's grip begins to loosen on the computing world.

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    Tab to Shortcut Feature

    The JavaScript engine is huge, but an average user won't really notice it much, at least not enough to change the way they use the Internet. That distinction goes to the Tab to Shortcut feature in Google Chrome. Right now, opening up a web site, say, oh I don't know, www.google.com, requires you to start up an Internet browser. This in-between step is so big that there are tons of people out there who say things like, "Click on the Internet," when they mean opening up Internet Explorer. To them, that blue "e" with the gold spinning around it IS the Internet. These are the people who use Google everyday right now, because they heard it was the best somewhere once upon a time. But, these are the same people who could disappear and never come back if Microsoft came up with a crafty enough way send them away from Google without raising the anti-trust regulator's suspicion. They simply aren't savvy enough to know or care what kind of search they are using unless they get that "insider" information that makes them seek something "new" like Google. These are the people who have never heard of Firefox, Opera, or Safari, because it just isn't a big enough deal to make them go through the hassle of figuring out what the deal is.

    But, if you can get them to try Google Chrome, and to use it a little bit, eventually they may follow the example and break out their Gmail account as a tab, and then save it as a shortcut. This does two things for Google. One, it cuts out the IE part of the process all together. Now, you will hear them say, "Click on the email," when they mean the shortcut to Gmail. So, now Microsoft is on the outside looking in, instead of the other way around.

    The second thing it does is even more strategically valuable. No matter how much publicity Chrome generates, there will be millions of Internet users who never even consider downloading it. So, Google cannot reach them. But, a different group of people WILL download Chrome. If these users end up using the Tab to Shortcut feature and liking it, they will grumble until it gets added to other browsers as well. Again, as open source software, it isn't hard to copy the functionality. When that happens, even Internet Explorer will have the feature one day. And, when that day comes, all of those un-savvy users will end up being able to create a tab based shortcut to their Google search, Gmail, or whatever else without ever having to download a single piece of software from Google. When that happens, Google wins anyway, because once again, they have taken out that first step of launching the browser. No longer will people click IE and get a home page- they will click their "email" and get Gmail. When that happens, Microsoft's power decreases over the Internet substantially.

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    Conclusion

    While Google probably does have good intentions for its browser, it is being the most honest when it says that if the Internet overall improves, they stand to benefit. The current Microsoft versus Google battle is a tug-of-war between getting users off of the desktop and into "the cloud" where Google has the advantage, and keeping them tethered to the desktop where Microsoft has the advantage.

    So, it is really immaterial whether or not Chrome succeeds as long as its features are adopted by whatever survives. The long-term dream for Google has to be a computer sold in mass quantities by the likes of Best Buy and Dell that doesn't even have Windows installed on it, just some basic operating shell that gets the user onto the Internet where all of their applications and data are waiting. When that happens, Google wins. That is if things stay as they are now. Microsoft is keenly aware of this possibility and has moved aggressively into the "cloud computing" space as well. If they are successful, they can continue to dominate regardless of how the Chrome piece of the battle plays out. But, at least then, the two titans start on an even playing field.

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    Images

    Direct Shortcut to Gmail

The Ongoing War between Microsoft and Google

Microsoft and Google are the giants in their fields. Microsoft has the lion's share of the browser market with Internet Explorer. Google has the search engine over 70% of the world goes to for information. They occupy separate niches. Why does most of the computing world believe they are battling?
  1. Microsoft versus Google - The Battle Lines Are Ever Expanding
  2. Google versus Microsoft - Google's Strategic Battle Plan - Part 1
  3. Microsoft Versus Google - Microsoft's Strategic Battle Plan
  4. Google versus Microsoft - Google's Strategic Battle Plan - Part 2
  5. Microsoft Versus Google - The Battle Lines Are SO Expanding
  6. Microsoft Versus Google - Microsoft Battle Plan - Part 2