Nov 22, 2008

Business - Google wants to preinstall Chrome on PCs

Barry Levine

As in the real-estate market, a key factor in the browser wars has been location, location, location. In the virtual space that browsers inhabit, the most valuable location is to be preinstalled on the computer you buy -- and Google wants that choice location for its Chrome browser.

According to news reports, the search giant will try to convince computer makers to preinstall the Chrome browser. Google Vice President Sundar Pichai told The Times of London that the company will "probably" do some distribution deals, including working with original-equipment manufacturers to ship PCs with Chrome already installed.

Less Than One Percent

Chrome could certainly use a boost. Currently, its market share is less than one percent of Web users, with Microsoft's Internet Explorer at more than 70 percent, Mozilla's Firefox about 20 percent, and others, such as Opera, making up the difference.

Pichai said that Google will launch a major marketing effort to support Chrome, which could encourage computer makers to come on board. "We will throw our weight behind it," he told The Times.

"We've been conservative because it's still in beta," he added, "but once we get it out of beta we will work hard at getting the word out, promoting to users, and marketing will be a part of that."

First launched in September, Chrome is still in its testing phase. Pichai told The Times that the beta phase will end in January.

Linux, Mac Platforms

Observers have noted that Microsoft's preinstallation of its Internet Explorer browser on millions of desktops gave it an insurmountable lead over its first major browser rival, Netscape's Navigator, and a positioning that no amount of features or performance could overcome. This positioning of IE, in fact, was a major factor in the U.S. government's subsequent antitrust complaints against Microsoft, a history that might help Google because any blocking efforts by Microsoft could revive the governmental battle.

Pichai added that Google is planning to launch Chrome versions in the first half of 2009 for the Linux and Mac platforms, which could expand the potential hardware targets. Currently, Chrome only operates under Windows.

The big push comes as Microsoft announced this week that the final beta update to its Internet Explorer 8 browser will be released in first quarter of next year, after which the final release will be launched. Some observers had been expecting the final update this year.

IE 8 will become a standard part of Windows 7 in early 2010, when that version of the Microsoft operating system is released.

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