Friday, December 12, 2008

Is Firefox Doomed? Chrome joins Google Pack

You'd be hard-pressed to convince a die-hard blogger or your neighborhood 'geek' to switch from Firefox.  The customization and versatility have made it a winner among the tech crowd.

In fact, just about everyone's stats show that the Mozilla browser (which will probably move to 3.1 sometime this month), is gaining significant ground against Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

The 'browser wars' have been going on for years.  There have always been numerous players and alternatives to the browser that comes 'built-in' on most Windows-based PC's.

Today's landscape is different.

Internet Explorer is technically no longer part of the Windows operating system.  In fact, many of Microsoft's own websites have been made compatible with Firefox.  

Enter Google's Chrome which came out of beta this past week.  The no-frills, lightweight browser is already a hit with many, especially those with limited system resources.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer still has an identity problem.  Some 'techies' are readying for IE8 when it leaves beta 2.  Some individuals and companies have been automatically upgraded to IE7.... while still, many others are moping along with IE6.

Current financial conditions have stopped some large and small companies from upgrading hardware and software and many have downsized their IT departments, which slows the upgrade process further.

It's no secret that a very significant amount of Mozilla's income comes from Google.  The 'deal' that makes the browser default to Google as the primary search engine is, by all accounts, HUGE.

Of course, Apple's Safari remains strong with MAC and iPhone users, and other players in the browser space, such as Opera, have found a home on desktops and mobile devices.

From all indications, it appears Google is very serious about Chrome.  The new version works fine, is fast and cross platform.

The beta tag is off .... but are the gloves out?

Reading some of Google's bloggers this past week and a few Googlers on Twitter, my guess is YES.

If I'm right, and developers jump on when the 'extension bandwagon' kicks in, it could be a whole new ballgame.

If Google finds a way to convince corporate IT departments that there's a reason, and a good one, to switch ... and then makes it incredibly easy, the browser landscape could change in a heartbeat.

The best reason, and the one I think they should be watching VERY closely is security.

There's simply no company that wouldn't want a more secure infrastructure .... for free.

Update Dec 13 :  Shortly after we posted this piece, Google replaced the Firefox browser with Chrome as part of their Google Pack.

Update 2 Dec 15: Several readers chimed in, in the comments below, on Friendfeed and elsewhere with regard to my 'cross-platform' mention, which, in fact, is wrong.  While the Chromium project does offer a preliminary build for Mac (and less for Linux), the Chrome browser currently is limited to Windows based PC's.

In addition, one e-mailer pointed out that Google Docs is still prominently displayed on the Firefox 'Getting Started' page ...

Either way, 2009 will be an interesting year.... especially if the economic conditions allow a significant Tech / IT upgrade!