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

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

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