Google chrome and why Microsoft should acquire/invest in Mozilla Firefox

In Technology by Ashish Sinha30 Comments

Google Chrome is finally live and is almost showing the middle finger to Microsoft and Mozilla.

Lets track back and understand where did Google fail in it’s bid to conquer the world (reality check: apart from search and gmail, no other Google product is doing amazingly great):

  • Search: Bundling deal with Dell or other manufacturers failed to give Google the much needed traction.
  • Apps (the next big revenue source): Google’s reliance on Firefox alone to promote it’s apps has gotten them some traction, but that’s not enough when you want to take on the M$ giant.

Perspective

Microsoft has 72% browser market share, of which IE6 still holds close to 25% market share.
What does that mean? The long tail is hard to crack. The long tail is too tech unsavvy for even Microsoft to crack (and till date, they are supposed to ‘know’ the business).

  • Google Gears is the basic ingredient that Google needs to embed in the browser. While Firefox can be a good option, it’s still an add-on.
  • All said and done, Google doesn’t own FF. They do fund them (FF relies on google searche rev sharing), but the reality is that Google needs that gears ‘plantation’ to each and every user’s desktop.
    • And if they need to do all this in partnership Firefox, why not launch their own product?

Also do understand that IE’s market share has fallen down from 83% to 72% in just few years.

“Only by building its own software could Google bring the browser into the cloud age and potentially trigger a spiral of innovation not seen since Microsoft and Netscape one-upped each other almost monthly” – wired

What’s the biggest challenge for Google Chrome then?

In the immediate run, it’s not IE. It’s Firefox.

  • Firefox market share is ~20%
  • Firefox, instead of being the ‘easily tamed goat’ (once it-used-to-be), is turning independent (announced deal with Yahoo to serveMozilla search in few Asian countries).
  • Both FF and Chrome will compete for the same developer love.

So Google first needs to shift these developers from Firefox to Chrome, and in the process make FF redundant (slowly, otherwise they will face the heat from open source community).

Open Source – Who the F**k Cares?

Chrome engineer, Ben Goodger worked on FF for few years before moving onto Google Chrome (he was paid by Google to work on FF part-time as well). The story doesn’t end here, it has interesting twists that possible shows how corporates use open source for their own purpose:

Several key engineers – Ben Goodger and Darin Fisher among them – devoted considerable volunteer time to Firefox before joining Google’s browser project..Mozilla’s CTO, Brendan Eich – a veteran of Netscape – removed Goodger as a Firefox “module owner” in September 2006. Being the “owner” of a module, while a volunteer position, carries considerable cachet. Goodger subsequently removed himself from the Firefox project, as did colleagues like Fisher and Pam Greene.

Wired now reveals the motivation behind Eich’s move: By June 2006, Goodger and others had created a prototype of Chrome. If Lilly wasn’t worried about Google’s browser, why would Eich take Goodger off Firefox? In any event, removing Goodger played into Google’s hands, making him all the more willing to take on Mozilla. [source]

Leaving the open source story aside, whom are we left with then?

Microsoft,  a company losing out on the web battle and may soon see the impact on it’s cash cow – the office suite application.

MS’s basic challenge is that it just doesn’t understand the Internet evolution. IE is meant for browsing, but not for the clouds. And that’s where MS needs a push.

Why Microsoft should acquire/invest in Firefox?

  • Microsoft needs to open up – they are realizing this fast and the best way to do this is get into the open source world by sleeping with the darling, i.e. Firefox.
  • FF gives MS access to open source developers.
  • Let both IE and FF exist – MS’s immediate threat is not just the browser market share, but the battle over office suite – and only FF can help them stay in the battle.

Questions like FF will lose all developers if it gets closer to MS is more of a PR game (for that matter, even Chrome is an open-source product, that belongs to a corporate called Google).

Do remember that Google is targeting colleges and schools by giving away it’s apps for free (which will now include Chrome) – in order to catch them young (and hook them forever). If it’s successful, the next generation will read Microsoft in history books only.

And that’s a good enough reason for Microsoft to sleep with Firefox.

What’s your opinion?

Image via Wikipedia

Comments

  1. Keith Dsouza

    I would question your views on Microsoft acquiring Mozilla, first of all Google is funding Mozilla and they are into a funding deal till 2011. Read the Mozilla CEO’s blog post about chrome here http://john.jubjubs.net/2008/09/01/thoughts-on-chrome-more/.

    Second is Mozilla and IE are two different set of browsers with two different set of standards, and everything Mozilla does is in competition with Microsoft?

    Firefox for IE
    ThunderBird for Outlook
    SunBird for Calendar

    So I must definitely question how you could determine that Microsoft should go ahead and buy Mozilla, or even imagine that.

    1. Ashish

      @Keith:
      I am aware of the FF funding – but does that funding really matter? Any funding of this sort is a not an exclusive agreement.

      FF competes with MS and isnt that the right reason for MS to buy it out? Look at siebel/oracle, YouTube/Google video story.

      1. Keith Dsouza

        Well the days of Oracle and Siebel are gone, how many of us mention them except in corporate circles where they have a market? Well then we should also look at Sun/MySQL deal today then, but then who is interested in them?

        As far as I can say, MSFT and Moz are a complete mismatch, and forget about acquistion, these people are competing against each other.

        Like Azhar said, in the US, it’s not as easy as you think to aquire a company, the EU and Anti-trust will come up against you and bloody fine you for such things.

        And for funding, Mozilla is still there because of Google, and its a non-profitable funding, show me one such organization Microsoft has funded, other than charity, vested intrests can go to hell.

        1. Ashish

          “Well then we should also look at Sun/MySQL deal today then, but then who is interested in them?” – Just because you aren’t, doesnt mean that the world is not. Shareholders/Analysts everybody else is interested n these deals (revenue figures).

          “Mozilla is still there because of Google, and its a non-profitable funding, ”
          It’s a rev share deal. There is nothing called ‘free lunch’.

          “show me one such organization Microsoft has funded, other than charity, vested intrests can go to hell.”
          That’s business. Why did Google fund FF then (if not for vested interest?)

          As Sean said, lets discuss the fundamental strategy – issues like anti-trust etc are left to legal experts (and believe me, very easy to twist and turn).

          Let me ask you
          “As a hard core geek, will you build application for Google Chrome (its open source too) or Mozilla? “

  2. Azhar

    Microsoft can’t acquire Mozilla Foundation mainly because of Anti-Trust issues, Monopoly can’t acquire a near competitor.
    Google chrome is not going to make a dent in IE’s fortune at all, it will take away some of the market from Fx. IE’s population is different, these are the people who don’t care about plugins and standards, all they visit is handful of websites and they don’t care about upgrading too, hence IE6 still retains close to 25% of the market share.

    1. Arjun

      Google chrome is already kicking IE’s ass. A lot of corporates are insisting (at least talking about chrome, being a non-beta product from Google)… Change is in the offing dude. I am telling you.

  3. Shreyas

    Ummm… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozilla_Corporation

    From Wikipedia…

    “The Mozilla Foundation will ultimately control the activities of the Mozilla Corporation and will retain its 100 percent ownership of the new subsidiary. Any profits made by the Mozilla Corporation will be invested back into the Mozilla project.

    There will be no shareholders, no stock options will be issued and no dividends will be paid. The Mozilla Corporation will not be floating on the stock market and it will be impossible for any company to take over or buy a stake in the subsidiary. The Mozilla Foundation will continue to own the Mozilla trademarks and other intellectual property and will license them to the Mozilla Corporation. The Foundation will also continue to govern the source code repository and control who is allowed to check in.”

    1. Ashish

      Does that mean they cant invest in them?
      Get out of the ‘wikipedia’ theoretical text man –
      “Any profits made by the Mozilla Corporation will be invested back into the Mozilla project. ”
      So a rev share deal is possible.

      “The Foundation will also continue to govern the source code repository and control who is allowed to check in” –
      So MS can invest and Mozilal still controls the product.

      Isnt’ that the best thng to happen?
      It’s always good to converse based on the context, and not theory.

  4. Brendan Eich

    I removed Ben as module owner at his own request, since he was no longer able to spend time fulfilling the duties of module owner.

    It’s stupid to suspect foul play here, especially since whatever anyone knew then about Chrome, the only relevant factor in module ownership decisions is whether the owner is responsive and satisfactory to peers and other committers.

    It’s also dumb to think that back in 2006, anyone at Mozilla was worried about Chrome, since beyond its secret status, it was years from release.

    Next time you want to impugn my management of Mozilla module ownership, have the guts to mail me directly.

    /be

    1. Ashish

      @Brendan
      I only mentioned what was reported in the media. I will update the post with your comments.

  5. Sean

    I guess the discussion is far more fundamental than qns related to what happens to anti-trust etc.

    MS is damn screwed up and I agree that if not acquisition, then ivnesting into firefox can help them (say they do a bucket serve and get MS search box on 50% installs?)

    Guess you hv a valid pt…but MS is too big an elephant to react to Chrome (atleast in the near term)

  6. Sumanth

    Ashish,
    Reg your statement espousing MS acquiring Mozilla – “Let both IE and FF exist – MS’s immediate threat is not just the browser market share, but the battle over office suite – and only FF can help them stay in the battle.”
    Not sure how you made the jump from the browser to the Office suite…how can FF help MS in the “battle over the Office suite” as you put it?
    Yes, controlling the browser/platform does give Google leverage in terms of improving their Google Apps offering but how does the reverse hold true in terms of MS ownership of FF giving it an edge in the Office productivity space? After all, they already own the dominant browser but that by itself has zero impact on the Office suite, right?
    Do clarify….

    1. Ashish

      @Sumanth –
      What I meant was the threat is from both the browser market share perspective + the battle over office.
      a. IE is still a browser meant for browsing.
      b. FF is lot more faster and has community love (where IE lacks).
      c. Most of the initial adopters (consumers and not business) to office suite is the tech community – MS has consumer community, but not the tech community.

      Microsoft is like a tiger in sheep’s clothing (when it comes to defining the online office part) – they cant let go of their cash cow to an online product – It’s the same issue which Siebel had (and Salesforce just swept the market _- I hv worked wth Siebel and let me say that this is a classic challenge which even MS will face (its just too difficult to have two completely different offerings)

      Whats your take on the entire Chrome threat?

  7. Abi

    what an irresponsible post ashish — pls don’t make such a fool of yourself that people have to come and correct you like this. Words like stupid and dumb don’t suit you. I will really urge you to become less sensational(ist) in your reporting. Please check your facts about acquisitions before going on harping that who should acquire who. You have one of the best tech blogs in India and I would love that to stay that way.

    1. Ashish

      @Abi:
      Is there anything wrong with teh analysis? What exactly do you mean by “facts about acquisitions before going on harping that who should acquire who”?
      Well, if MS cant acquire Mozilla (owing to the definition of the entity), they should invest in them.

  8. Mahesh T

    Here is a simpler perspective:
    Google’s core business(Internet Ads) will benefit from users engaging more time on internet. So, Google would like to push the limits of what the current Browsers are capable and help more desktop applications run online. Launching its own browser(Chrome) is a very powerful way through which it can push FireFox and IE to innovate faster.

    I think, the argument for Why MS should acquire FF is weak. Isn’t opening up IE, a better option?

    -Mahesh
    Celebrating Life…

    PS: I have a huge bias for simplicity. I like simpler arguments instead of analyzing the complex details like What becomes of open source? Why Ben Goodger was dropped from the FF by Mozilla’s CTO.

    1. Ashish

      @Mahesh – Google’s core business is advertising, but the next wave for them is online office – which is a direct threat to MS’ revenues (which mostly comes from selling office suite of products)

  9. abhinav

    On a slightly different note, just one day in to using Chrome and I am loving it!

    Especially like the password remember feature and the fact that i can now do Google search in the address bar.

    1. shivaas

      You can do a google search on the firefox address bar also ! Try it ! It default searches on google and gives u results.

  10. media boy

    i’m willing to try it out just to see if it works more efficiently than FireFox… if it’s faster than Firefox and isn’t IE, then i’ll use it

  11. Prashant

    As i am winding my day up so don’t want to get into “comment boxing” which is happening btw ashish and others but the final words are “MS acquiring Mozilla isn’t a sensible thought at all”…Atleast for the decision making guys at MS..
    And an advise to ashish : Don’t mess up too much with your visitors.If arrington would start doing it,it will take weeks for him to answer/counter all his visitor’s point of view.He answers very selectively.Be that one…

  12. Raseel

    Firstly, @Brendan : I don’t believe you didn’t go ahead and flame Ashish for suggesting MS should acquire FF.
    I don’t know where you got your number about IE and FF percentage shares, but some googling around tells me they are not correct.
    Secondly, why would anyone want ANY open source project , especially a popular one, to be taken over by MS. Tomorrow , if Google comes out with its fables Google OS, you will want MS to buy out the complete Linux IP. Jeez !!! And if MS does really wanna go the open source way, why doesn’t it open the code for IE, instead of buying an open source browser ?

    As pointed out correctly by a commentor, FF and IE are completely different browsers, following different standards, designs, etc. And I think the only reason the 25-whatever% people are still using IE is because of sheer ignorance.

    Chrome still has a lot of flaws, security holes, design considerations ,etc. The sad thing is, Google which practically runs on Linux and other Open source softwares, released Chrome as an open source software in Windows. Irony ? Hypocrisy ?
    However, since it has come out from the Google stables, it has earned atleast so much credibility that most users (myself included) will try it out.

    1. Ashish

      Dude – the numbers are true (wired too had the same numbers)
      regd. Chrome on Windows – its a simple market dynamics – why do you expect google to release something for 5% of user base?
      They run a business, not charity.

  13. Mahesh T

    @Ashish

    Microsoft had a monopoly on Office suite largely because it used proprietary formats. This left very little scope for competition and MS minted money from the product everyone needed. But, thanks to AntiTrust cases and EU, We are in an era of open standards and formats. In this backdrop, i think, Office suite won’t be as profitable as they were.

    Add the evolved Internet ecosystem to the mix and i have a feeling…Office suite of future will be an Ad supported consumer business and a very low margin enterprise businesses. In fact, way lower in the value chain than what Sridhar Vembu of Zoho points to at http://blogs.zoho.com/uncategorized/why-we-compete-with-google/

    So..Is online office the next wave? I don’t think so :)

    Would love to listen where the above theory breaks down or if I’m missing something big.

    -Mahesh
    Celebrating Life…

  14. Zishaan

    Ashish – was it really you who wrote this post? Very crude and totally not you. I think you messed up on this one … and you’ve had to come back and defend yourself almost after every comment.

    I am on the same page as Abi and Mahesh T.

    1. Ashish

      yes dear – I wrote this.
      What you see as ‘defending’ is also explaining. I clearly see that many of the commentors aren’t aware of
      a. Online office opportunity
      b. FF rev share deal with Google.

      And to me, that’s a big piece that ppl are missing – the commercialization of open source.

      Only time will tell who was right/wrong – but lets be open!
      And guys, pls don’t take my ‘reply to each comment’ as way to defend myself (can alawys behave like TC and dont give a shit to replies) , but its my way of being answerable to each and every commentor @ pluGGd.in.

  15. Vishal

    I use firefox and a wide range of its plugins, i also tested chrome. Chrome is a superb browser, a new concept..

    I think there is no future for IE.

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