Since the release of Google's new "web browser", Chrome yesterday the web has been buzzing with speculation about how Google will be hurting Mozilla. The funny thing is, that if you read the comic about Google chrome, you'll see that it is being positioned more as an operating system than as a browser.
The idea is that the Web browser will become the operating system of choice for cloud computing.
The Google Chrome "browser" has certain advantages over the current generation of browsers, particularly in the area of robustness and multithreading. The browser changes are similar, in a way to the fundamental chanages from Windows 3.1 to Windows XP.
Under Windows 3.1, all applications shared the same address space and one faulty application would result in the dreaded "General Protection Fault" message and would often pull the entire system down. I see that kind of behaviour all the time in Internet Explorer and slightly less often (but still frequently) in Mozilla.
The Google Chrome system treats every tab as an entirely separate application. This allows it to reclaim memory when a tab is closed (avoiding memory leaks) and allows individual tabs to be closed without affecting the rest of the system (the browser) whenever there is a problem.
Google has also been talking about getting plug-in's to run in their own address space too. I don't believe that's been done in the beta that is currently available, but we've been told that it's coming.
Google chrome is also a "self-protecting" browser. It frequently downloads updates to its list of malware and will prevent such applications from running.
The Mobile Connection
Finally, you can't overlook the connection between Chrome and Android (Google's Mobile Phone system). They're based on many of the same components with the aim of creating a truly cross platform cloud computing system.
Why is Mozilla Safe?
Google and Mozilla have long been on good terms. Both browsers are open-source and I believe that Google is hoping that Mozilla will follow it's lead and stabilise their browser too. This will prevent accusations of monopoly while achieving Google's real aim - stabilisation of browsers. Google's interests aren't in the browser market at all. They're firmly set on cloud computing - and for that, they need fast and stable web browsers.
Why Should Microsoft be Worried?
Microsoft is really the obvious target. Imagine operating systems such as Linux which run local operating system services, such as printers, fonts and screens but do not require any applications. All they require is a Web browser such as Google crime or Mozilla Firefox. You will notice that I have left out Internet Explorer because this is a Windows only browser. At this stage, I haven't made my mind up on a safari or opera but I suspect at least the latter will be a possibility.
Now imagine that the browser runs on various platforms, on mobiles, on consoles such as the Xbox and Playstation and on appliances. The underlying system is unimportant - so long as it can communicate with the cloud.
So, we've started our Web browser and connected to our cloud computing system (possibly something like iGoogle). In this case, I will be using Google as an example however there are quite a few other cloud computing platforms available.
For my documents; Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, I can use Google Docs, (in place of MS Office), for Mail, Calendar and Instant Messaging, I can use Gmail, Google Calendar and GoogleTalk (instead of Outlook/Exchange).
If I'm on a commercial-level service, which Google does not yet fully support, I don't have to worry about backup, disaster recovery or security (access control and anti-malware).
Finally, there's a range of other online tools available to me, from Google and from other suppliers. These tools include Blogging tools (like Blogger and Wordpress), Graphics (like Picasa and Flickr) and file storage and sharing tools like GoogleBase. There's even online tools available for converting to PDF via the Web.
All that's missing are some good online project management solutions to replace Microsoft Project.
Why Should IBM be Worried?
IBM has less to worry about than Microsoft but Google's cloud computing initiative is a direct threat to Lotus Foundations. The concept is pretty much the same with the main differences being that IBM have a better array of collaboration tools and that IBM are better placed to take advantage of "mistrust" in Google. Most companies today will think twice before hosting all of their corporate data online.
Even so, it's only a matter of time - so IBM probably needs to put a bit more effort into Foundations and Cloud Computing Alternatives (a cloud version of Lotus Notes?) in order to stay relevant.