Google Inc. has decided to launch its own Web browser in a long-anticipated move aimed at countering the dominance of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer and ensuring easy access to its market-leading search engine.
Google, the Mountain View-based company, took the unusual step of announcing its latest product on the Labor Day holiday after it prematurely sent out a comic book drawn up to herald the new free Web browser's arrival.
The free Web browser, called "Chrome," is supposed to be available for downloading Tuesday in more than 100 countries for computers running on Microsoft's Windows OS. Recently, Google has been working on versions compatible with Apple Inc.'s Mac computer and the Linux OS.
Google's browser is expected to hit the market a week after Microsoft's unveiling of a test version of its latest Web browser update, Microsoft Internet Explorer 8. Microsoft has included tweaks for Web surfers to cloak their online preferences. By doing this, the Web surfers able to create a shield that could make it more difficult for Google and other marketing networks to find out which ads are most likely to appeal to which individuals.
Although Google is using a cartoonist approach to promote Chrome, the new browser underscores the gravity of Google's rivalry with Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer is used by about 75 percent of Web surfers. Currently, Google's lead in the lucrative Internet search market, with its engine processing nearly two-thirds of the Web's queries.
For the past few years, Google has been struggling to take advantage of its search engine's popularity to loosen Microsoft's grip on how most people interact with PCs. In addition, the assault so far has been stressed on a bundle of computer programs, including word processing and spreadsheet applications, that Google offers as an alternative solution to one of Microsoft's biggest money makers, Microsoft Office suite of products.
Google has tried to make its alternative solutions more accessible and appealing by hosting them in free over Internet connections instead of requiring users to pay a licensing fee to install them on individual computers, as Microsoft typically does. On the other hand, Microsoft has tried to thwart Google by investing billions in the development of its own search engine and making an unsuccessful attempt to buy Yahoo Inc. for $47.5 billion. Undoubtedly, the tensions between Google and Microsoft now seem likely to escalate with Google's foray into Web browsing.
Google had been trying to undermine Internet Explorer by supporting Firefox, a Web browser developed by the open-source Mozilla Foundation. Bolstered by an advertising partnership with Google's search engine, Firefox ranks as the second most popular browser, with a market share of more than 10 percent. Moreover, Google recently extended its advertising alliance with Firefox through 2011.
Bearing the stamp of Google's renowned brand, Chrome could be an even more formidable rival to Explorer. However, Google's name is no guarantee of success. In fact, Google's instant messaging service has not made come close to catching up to the market-leading products made by Yahoo, Microsoft and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL.
Google touted Chrome as a more sophisticated Web browser better suited for displaying the interactive and dynamic content blossoming on the Web as people migrate from radio, television, and newspapers.
On the other hand, Microsoft brushed aside the threat in a statement Monday from Dean Hachamovitch, Internet Explorer's general manager. According to Hachamovitch, the browser landscape is highly competitive, but people will choose Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips, more than any other browsing technology, puts them in control of their personal data online.
Even as it has backed Firefox, Google has openly fretted about the possible ramifications of Microsoft's huge lead in Web browsing. Actually, Google is worried that Microsoft could abuse its power by manipulating Internet Explorer's default settings in a way that might diminish traffic to Google's search engine that serves as the hub of the largest online ad network.
In 2006, Google has contacted the Justice Department to raise alarms about Internet Explorer changes that Google believed made it more difficult to install Google’s search toolbars. Although regulators decided not to intervene, Microsoft subsequently modified the way Explorer handled the selection of search toolbars.
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