Google's Chrome browser is now available for download, and the company's cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin say the new product is fundamental to the Google's success.
The search engine giant made the surprise announcement that it was launching a web browser on Monday, revealing that Chrome will be available in more than 100 countries. The company said the open-source browser will run web applications "much better", and promised that it would be "streamlined and simple".
On first glance, that seems to be the case. Google Chrome is available for download here, although it initially only works under Windows XP or Windows Vista. Google is working on Mac OS X and Linux versions, although the company has yet to release a timeline for the additional editions.
Chrome's announcement has sparked a whirlwind of interest in Google's long-term plans for the platform, and Google's founders attempted to outline the specifics of the project yesterday during a press conference at Google HQ.
"Everything we do is running on the web platform. It's very important to us that works well," said Larry Page.
"People are doing a lot more online, and the web has evolved pretty dramatically ... but the underlying browser architecture is still very similar to the original Netscape browser," said Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president of product management.
Some have speculated that Chrome is Google's biggest step yet towards the development of a web operating system, but Sergey Brin was quick to dismiss the claim.
"I wouldn't call Chrome the OS of web apps. It's a very basic, fast engine to run web apps. We'll see more and more web apps of greater and greater sophistication, of the kinds of things that today are pretty challenging to do on the web because of browser performance," Brin said.
Google is releasing Chrome as open source in the hopes that it will be improved by external developers, and simultaneously help improve other products, including the market-share leader, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE).
In other words, Chrome is meant to be a catalyst for faster innovation in browser technology. "Our business does well if people are using the web a lot and are able to use it easily and quickly, so any improvement to any set of browsers as a consequence of Chrome is good for Google," Brin said.
Brin, Page and Pichai all went to great lengths to praise Mozilla's work with Firefox, crediting it with jump-starting innovation in browser development at a time when the only game in town was IE. "Without what [Mozilla] has done, this probably wouldn't be possible," Page said.
Google isn't unhappy with Firefox, as the two companies have a harmonious relationship, insisted Tristan Nitot, president of Mozilla Europe, yesterday.
"It's a huge mistake to view this as a head-to-head battle of Firefox versus Chrome," added David Mitchell, senior vice president for IT research at Ovum. "There's plenty of space for more consumer choice. If it [Chrome] gains market share, it will take it from all around."