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

Last Updated Sep 4, 2008 10:30 AM EDT

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?
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.