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Why Google Chrome Really Matters

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On Sunday we watched a short segment on CBS Sunday Morning about Google. The company, 10 years old this month, represents the best of what came out of the dot-com bubble in the 90's. Today they are madly profitable, focused on their core services and yet, still crazy after all these years. Massages, naps and gourmet food? Why, that's the kind of hubris that brought down dozens of companies in the first boom, so what's Google's secret sauce?

The fact is, Google is known to the mass market as "how to find stuff on the internet." Their success, like most success stories, is wedded to a fortuitous series of events: the price of computers and internet access dropping like a stone and the democratization of page creation and monetization. That's a mouthful, for sure. Cheaper computers and easier, faster access made computing and creating pages within the grasp of more people. As more people came online, they saw ways to make money by generating content and running the drop-dead simple AdSense on their pages. From memes to spy shots, Google helped the new wave make their wee blogs fiscally sensible.

What all this brought was brand recognition. The average person uses Google as a verb now, and that really means something. Another happy coincidence was the emergence of mobile and mobile browsing. Now you've got a vector of adoption that can reach even more folks who merely see the home computer as a porn/game machine but use their mobile devices every day. So the brand is unquestionably huge, which brings us to Chrome...

So... Chrome will land and what then? Like any Google beta, it'll be in an indefinite holding pattern for months, maybe years. The average person won't touch this for a while. Like Android, the other Shiny New Thing, it holds great promise but won't do much until more people adopt it. But when they do adopt it, watch out. Google has an excellent track record for transforming experience.

The reason we're so stoked about Chrome isn't that it's just a browser, or even a better browser. This is the glue. It's the central hub of connectivity we've been waiting for -- the final piece of the Google puzzle that has been building since they started growing beyond the ad market and into products and services that actually do things. It gives Google a new platform to target services upon and coupled with their brand awareness, stands to invade the desktops in a way we haven't seen since Internet Explorer 3 brought "the web" to the masses (and more importantly, gave some honest hooks into a web platform). Only this time the benefit is a modern, stable and powerful browser that also works as a mini-OS. If you like Google docs, Gmail, Gtalk and the myriad other services Google creates, this will be the primary target that'll bring all that under one roof.

As an example of what could have been, let's look at Flock. This is another multi-purpose browsing tool. Problem is, it uses a bunch of services from other people. That's pretty nice, but the average consumer, when confronted with Flock, won't really know what to do with it. Google, they get. Flock sounds a little "web 2.0" for them, honestly. Flock is great, but like Ducky "Pretty in Pink," it just isn't going to win the girl in the end. Trust, my friends, is a powerful motivator. Google has it, others don't. It wasn't just a sense of karma that lead to the "do no evil" line in the mission -- it was a fundamental understanding of the general population's aversion to new technology. Google "gets" the consumer in more ways than one.

Thus, Google, by way of a better experience (provided you have ample horsepower to essentially run several browsers with VM's and sanboxes at once) and brand recognition is one step closer to total domination of the infospace. A little spit and polish on the services they own (not to mention more coordination and glue) with plugs into Chrome and this game gets a lot better for everyone. Just wait until Chrome Mobile comes along. That's why we're engaged, that's why we're going to cover it ad nauseum and that's why this is a Big Deal. Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla, what's your game plan?

Tags: analysis, beta, chrome, google, google-chrome, googlechrome, news, opinion