BUSINESS
10/03/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Google Browser "Chrome" Takes Battle With Microsoft To New Level

***UPDATE***

GOOGLE CHROME BROWSER DOWNLOAD IS NOW LIVE for PC users.

***

Google accidentally leaked -- in the form of an explanatory electronic comic book -- its own announcement of a new Google Web browser -- just a little earlier than it meant to.

The comic book offers insight into the latest strike by Google against Microsoft, saying that current Web browsers are of an old mindset, and that Web applications like browser-based email (like Hotmail, Yahoo mail or, sure, why not, Gmail) called for a browser started from scratch.

The browser will only be available to PC users on Windows Vista or XP initially, though Google is working on Mac and Linux versions, according to Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google.

The Google browser -- "Chrome" -- is clear in its purpose for users, but clearer in its purpose for the company.

The Google browser takes direct aim at Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, which is by far the most widely used program for viewing Internet sites. The two companies already compete in Internet search engines, where Google holds a wide lead. Google has also developed Web-based alternatives to Microsoft's popular Word, Excel and PowerPoint programs.

While many people pay little attention to which browser they use, the choice makes a big difference to software companies. They can use the precious screen real estate to promote their own Web services. Moreover, they can tailor their browsers to ensure compatibility with their other products.

The Google Chrome download site appears to have existed briefly -- according to Google's own search cache for "Google Chrome download" -- but currently yields no actual download site. Instead, there's a lot of chatter about the new Google browser and even a Google Chrome screenshot leak or two.

The new browser apparently clarifies one of Google's many acquisitions, a company called GreenBorder:

Google Chrome's debut answers a 16-month mystery: Why did Google buy GreenBorder Technologies? I looked at GreenBorder in 2006 and thought it was a great product. Essentially, GreenBorder used some virtual machine technology to isolate programs from the operating system, but still allowed them to talk with the OS in a controlled way. The most useful job for GreenBorder was to "sandbox" a copy of Internet Explorer or Firefox to make browsing more secure.

If you look at list of Google acquisitions, the one that stuck out until today was GreenBorder, which was listed as "internal use" rather than being associated with a product or service. When Google picked up GreenBorder in May 2007, it was rather curious. Experts and analysts had some wild guesses about how GreenBorder might be used inside Google.

Google's browser appears to accomplish more or less what most Google ventures do -- it makes a customizable, heavy-use Web experience a little more efficient. The comic book's explanation of Google Chrome talks a lot about using multiple-tabbed browsing, which was the feature that launched Mozilla's Firefox browser into popular use on the Web.

In other words, it's possible that Google's new browser would do heavier damage against Firefox than against Microsoft's Internet Explorer, at least initially, because Web-savvier users would be the most likely to switch to Chrome.