Does Chrome Challenge IE? Or is Microsoft the Real Target?

Google's new browser, code-named Chrome, has only been available in beta several days but already has garnered more publicity than John McCain's running mate.

I haven't read every review, but most writers seem to agree Chrome has the potential to redfine the very nature of browsers and take on the current champion, Internet Explorer. (Full disclosure: I'm a Firefox man.) Read why my colleagues over at Business Hacks think Chrome is the real deal.

But there is an interesting strategy play for Google behind the technology. According to both Walt Mossberg, the respected Wall Street Journal tech writer, and Scott Anthony, the Harvard Business Publishing blogger on disruptive innovation, Chrome is a missile aimed at Microsoft, not IE.

Why? Because Chrome is designed from the ground up to help the user run and manage Web-based applications, not just display Web pages. And it's in Web apps where most competition is coming against Microsoft Office, the cash cow that bundles together Mail, calendering, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. As Anthony sees it:

If it works as advertised, Chrome could allow consumers to eschew Microsoft's operating system and applications. Instead, Chrome, Google applications, and other third-party open source add-ons could function as a viable -- and again, free -- replacement to the core building blocks of Microsoft's business.
No more Microsoft operating system and apps? That pretty much means no more Microsoft -- and that's a tall order. What do you think? Is Chrome the Trojan Horse that ultimately defeats MSFT? How should the Redmond Raiders retaliate?