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The Back Page

Why Chrome? Think Apple

OK, I’ll admit it. John C. Dvorak was what sparked me to write this piece. Yeah, I know, I’ve written a lot of columns during the last 10 years refuting (or sometimes cheering) some bit of rabble rousing Mr. Dvorak has instigated, but this time I come not to bury to bury Mr. Dvorak, I come to (mostly) ignore him.

In any event, Mr. Dvorak and some others have been asking why in the hell Google would bother releasing a new browser in this day and age. When it comes to Google, the super short answer is, "Why not?"

For a longer answer, we could be forgiven for turning to Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s own comments about trying to prevent Microsoft from further Balkanizing the Internet.

"Microsoft has a history of favouring its own applications and I can give you 500,000 pages of court testimony, document web blogs and so forth and so on about that," Mr. Schmidt said in an interview with the Financial Times of London. "We think that the browser continues to be an important platform; that the browser wars of 10 years ago were right: the browser matters."

I think that’s only a partial answer, and a very small part, at that. No, the longer answer is that Google has learned an important lesson from Apple, the lesson of controlling the whole widget. In this case, it’s most of the widget, but from Google’s standpoint it’s the only part of the widget they really care about -- the OS and the browser that will appear on Android-based phones.

That’s pretty much it. Google understands that much of the power of the iPhone centers around Safari, the Web browser that Apple utterly controls. Apple can include exactly as much of Safari as it wishes, and if it needs to change anything, Apple engineers can do so. The end result is the best Web browsing experience to be found on a mobile phone.

Think about that a moment or two, and the gravity of the situation will be clear. Apple currently offers the absolutely best mobile Web browsing experience on the planet, and it can do so because it controls the whole widget (hardware, OS, browser). One can argue that by depending on third party cell carriers that it doesn’t really control the whole widget, but that’s really a discussion for another column.

It’s also true that Apple could have adopted some variant of Mozilla for its needs, but that would never give Apple the kind of controls that Steve Jobs wants (and needs). For Apple to bring the Internet to your pocket, it needs a world-class browser that it can do anything with it wants.

Google apparently noticed that rather simple lesson and decided to learn from it.

With Android, Google hopes to earn a new fortune or two by offering ad-supported Internet-based services on a new generation of mobile phones. In order to maximize its potential in this market, the company realized it also needed a world-class browser that it controlled. Accordingly, Chrome was born.

It’s pretty much that simple. Yes, the company released it for Windows first, and yes, it’s coming to the Mac. Those are computers, not mobile phones, but in the grand scheme of things, Chrome is still all about the mobile phone. The computing market is less important, but it does make for a handy dandy test environment.

So, ignore Dvorak’s rabble rousing and Rob Enderle’s ignorant assertions about Apple and Google working together, and you can even ignore the stupid mistake Google made with its EULA. Chrome’s raison d’être is all about making sure Android can offer the best Web browsing experience that Google can provide. Everything else is just icing on the cake of Microsoft’s continued decline.

But then, that’s a subject for another column.

Follow me on Twitter @TMOBryan.
Bryan Chaffin began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko’s guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).
You can .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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