Google Seeks to Control Its Browser Destiny With Chrome

G00161272

Analyst(s): |

  Free preview of Gartner research

Summary

Google's introduction of Google Chrome is not simply a salvo in the "browser wars" of the past decade. Its primary purpose is to enable a more compelling user experience for Google's Web applications.

News Analysis

Event

On 2 September 2008, Google launched a beta version of its open-source Web browser, Google Chrome, for Windows XP and Vista. The beta is available for download at http://www.google.com/chrome . Google says that it plans to release versions for other platforms, such as Mac OS X and Linux.

Analysis

Google Chrome is a strategic initiative from Google, the culmination of a multiyear project involving significant resources and attention from senior management. Gartner believes Google was motivated to create Google Chrome by:

  • Dissatisfaction with the comparatively slow evolution of the current generation of browsers (such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera). Despite a steady flow of new releases and features, these browsers have not kept up with Google's rising goals for Web applications, including offline processing.

  • The common browser limitation of using interpreted JavaScript engines, rather than native code compilation. Current Web applications like Gmail have increased their use of client-side JavaScript by a factor of 10 or 100 when compared to the average Web page created 10 years ago.

We believe Google's objectives for Google Chrome include:

  • Creating a browser platform that Google controls directly, rather than indirectly, as with Firefox.

  • Offering a showcase for Google applications, such as Gmail and Docs, that stretch the limits of the current generation of browsers.

  • Enabling the next generation of browser applications, which can work offline and blur the desktop/Web boundary.

  • Adding Google-style tweaks and innovations to the browser user experience, such as the "Omnibox," which echoes the single text entry box used in Google search and Google Maps.

To achieve these goals, Google implemented several technical advances, including:

  • A high-performance JavaScript language engine that approximates native code speeds.

  • A new style of user interface.

  • Sophisticated system management and process monitoring features that cross into operating system territory.

In the short term, Google Chrome's success will be measured by how well it enables a compelling user experience for JavaScript-intensive Web applications, such as Gmail. Over the long term, Google Chrome's appeal must extend beyond early adopters to mainstream enterprise users — a chasm that Firefox has yet to cross.

The industry impact of Google Chrome will include:

  • Reduced usage of Firefox. Over the long term, cross-pollination of code between Google Chrome and Firefox is possible because both are based on open-source code.

  • Reduced interest in non-Ajax rich Internet application technologies and platforms, such as Adobe Flex and Microsoft Silverlight.

  • Benefits to users from increased innovation by rival browser development teams in response to Google Chrome.

  • Heightened developer interest in JavaScript for Web applications.

  • A more solid market presence for the WebKit rendering engine used by Google, Apple and Adobe.

  • A long-term escalation of the strategic conflict between Google and Microsoft if Google Chrome reduces Internet Explorer's market share and some usage of Microsoft Office and Exchange shifts over to Google-branded, cloud-based alternatives.

Recommendations

Enterprises:

  • If you are a heavy user of Gmail and other JavaScript-intensive applications, evaluate Google Chrome for its performance benefits.

  • If you generally use regular Web applications and Web sites, the early-stage offering of Google Chrome will be of comparatively less interest to you. Watch for further improvements in later versions.

Browser vendors and development teams:

  • Rethink your product road map, feature lists and technology foundation, and plan to incorporate offline support.

Web application developers:

  • If you use client-side JavaScript for future projects, expect significantly improved JavaScript support from all browsers.

Recommended Reading

  • "The State of Google Apps” — Gartner explores the business model behind Google Apps and the usage model with which it is entering enterprise operating environments. By Tom Austin and others

  • "Don't Wait for IE8 to Move From IE6” — IE8 represented an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, improvement over its predecessor, but its longstanding accumulation of dependencies will make it difficult for enterprises to switch over to an alternative browser. By Ray Valdes

(You may need to sign in or be a Gartner client to access the documents referenced in this First Take.)

© 2008 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

Not a Gartner Client?

Want more research like this?
Learn the benefits of becoming a Gartner client.

Contact us online

  Research

More  

Why Gartner

Gartner delivers the technology-related insight you need to make the right decisions, every day.

Find out more