A couple months ago the world was introduced to Google’s Chromium. In short, it’s a browser that does a few OS things - but when finished it’s going to be an internet client machine with little to no functionality beyond this.
I scoffed as have a lot of people. Google’s a big company after all, but Microsoft OWNS the desktop. After 15 years of trying Linux has barely put a scratch in the Windows market share. Apple has had only slightly more success. How does Google think they can beat Windows. I had my laugh, cracked some jokes and forgot about Chromium. After all, it isn’t going to run my PC games and can’t do anything but browse so I don’t need it. Grandpa and Grandma can barely figure out how the mouse works might like the simplification, but I don’t care.
Or at least I didn’t. Funny thing happened at work.
I am a web developer and my current job is building a database application for a medical billing company. My boss hates Microsoft with a passion and has instructed me to only test the application in Firefox 3.5. He doesn’t care if it works on anything else.
I was thinking about this one day when it occurred to me, that directive is how IE 6 got it’s hooks in the first place - make sure the company intranet pages work on IE 6, to hell with anything else.
Microsoft won the browser war and rested on their laurels, giving IE 6 a huge amount of inertia.
So what does this have to do with Chrome and Chromium? Well, Windows got it’s dominance by insuring that corporations needed Windows to run their business aps, most critically the ones they wrote themselves. However, as these have moved online the applications are becoming OS agnostic. But they aren’t browser agnostic (at least not IE 6 vs the rest of the world).
Microsoft has created a pickle for themselves. IE 6 isn’t supported in their newest OS, and keeping pages that worked in IE 6 working in IE 7 and 8 is next to impossible. Hence they are slowly forcing these companies to rewrite their in house stuff. Now, are these companies going to trust Microsoft not to drop support for a browser again?
Enter Chromium. First, it is only a browser. But my company only needs a browser on the computer - there are no other applications used by the staff in their day to day operations. I’m guessing there’s quite a few companies out there in a similar position. Now, if chromium will run browser based software better and faster than Windows…
And if it does it cheaper…
Suddenly Google’s OS doesn’t look so Quixotic after all. Windows will continue to be a desktop/laptop monopoly. But it’s ill equipped to handle the thin-client world. For corporations that have a lot of web based software there’s a lot of attractiveness in Chromium. The limited functionality actually becomes a feature in this environment.
And if Google succeeds in this they can thank IE 6 for creating the favorable environment and getting corporations to move off OS specific applications in the first place.