Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why Google is about to trounce Microsoft

I remember way-back when Netscape was the "browser de jour", some pretty smart people predicting how eventually, conventional operating systems (and Windows in particular) would become redundant.

The belief was that the browser would become the OS and the OS would become the browser.

Instead of an OS, such as Windows, appearing when you started up your computer, the first thing you'd see would be your browser. Indeed, there were rumours that Netscape themselves were working hard on a Windows-killer environment that included a browser and OS all rolled into one.

Well of course we all know that Netscape is no longer the dominant browser, that position having fallen to Microsoft for many years.

While it dominated the browser and OS marketplace, Microsoft did try to integrate the two so tightly as to make them inseparable - but the EU decided such a high level of integration was "uncompetitive" and a forced separation followed.

But now it's 2009 and once again the prospect of browser-based computing has come to the fore.

This time we have (at least in part) the concept of cloud-computing to thank.

Instead of shrink-wrapped applications working with locally stored sets of data, cloud computing involves data stored on distant servers and massaged by (usually) browser-based applications.

Thus, once again, the prospect of your browser becoming not only your most commonly used application but also your computer's operating system appears to be a viable one.

Helping the browser in its "desktop takeover" move is the introduction of HTML5, a new set of standards that looks set to significantly increase the power and flexibility of the humble web-browser.

And now, instead of Netscape, it's Google who is at the forefront of turning your PC into little more than a platform for the web browser.

It's not by accident that Google invested millions in developing its Chrome browser. It knows full well that the winner of the computing game is no longer the one who owns the desktop. Instead, it will be the one who owns the browser and the gateway to the internet.

If, as appears to be the case, a huge transition is about to take place from desktop to cloudtop, the relevance of the operating system used falls significantly. Once people become used to using their browser as the primary interface to their computing world, it won't matter nearly so much whether they're running MS Windows, Linux, or any other OS.

Providing there's a consistent browser interface across all platforms, both the hardware and the OS become irrelevant.

And, he who "owns" the browser, owns the market.

Google is one very, very smart company - as Microsoft may be about to discover to their cost.

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