Microsoft and Google have something in common. Both companies think the current state of the browser is broken. In a paper describing the admittedly dense browser concept that is Gazelle, Redmond justified its involvement in the project, stating, "The time has come to apply decades-old operating-system experience to the browser-design space." And in yesterday's announcement of its forthcoming operating system, Google echoed the sentiment, with a touch less subtlety: "The operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no Web. So today, we're announcing a new project that's a natural extension of Google Chrome--the Google Chrome Operating System. It's our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be." The premise here is essentially the same: Browsers and operating systems don't play nicely together. The companies' proposed solutions, on the other hand, are decidedly different. Microsoft wants to fix the browser, Google the OS. Most analysts are regarding Google's announcement as a direct shot at Microsoft. And why not? Google has largely built itself on a strategy of taking down Microsoft product by product--and MS, in return, has spent much of the last decade responding to the shots. And if anyone is going to lead a successful grassroots (well, more like astroturfing) movement against the software giant, it's going to be Google. To fix the communication--or miscommunication--between our PCs and the Web, Google is suggesting something of a complete teardown of the OS. Redefine the concept by tailoring the basis of the operating system to the Web. In a sense, it's an OS that behaves like a browser. Microsoft is suggesting that, given its many years designing operating systems, why not apply those fundamentals to a new browser tailored to our current Internet needs--a browser that behaves like an OS?The dissonance between these two projects highlights a rift between the two companies that exists across a lot more than just this space. Microsoft insists on leveraging and building upon its experience, and Google suggests a rebuild from scratch. The solution almost certainly exists somewhere between these two schools of thoughts. And whoever can design a more compelling argument (and, naturally a real-world product to back it up) will have a jump-start on the next generation of browsers and operating systems.
PC Magazine July 2009