The Long Tale

The least surprising thing about Google’s Chrome browser announcement was the reaction from most of the media that this was an attack on Microsoft. Google founders Sergey and Larry were both present at the press event, with Page apparently the more engaged on a regular basis with the project for the last two years. But Brin took most of the strategic questions and painted a different picture from the notion that the browser was a new OS and an attack on Internet Explorer and its still-dominant market share on the PC.

Not that I innately believe every message coming from the Google chiefs; often the nuance of their answers carries more weight than the bullet points. And the bile many of us detect regarding Microsoft comes in large doses from CEO Eric Schmidt, who still has not fully flushed the years of struggle with Redmond at Sun and Novell from his system. Page’s responses were somewhat careful and subtly guarded, but Brin seems at ease with the press in ways that are both disarming and also frequently instructive.

When Brin answers the questions about the new OS, he smiles as if to say, yeah, sure it’s the new OS but that’s not why we’re doing it. The words come out, “No it’s not the OS, it’s the engine of the (new) OS.” Page delivers the Schmidt lines since Eric is not in the room: “The more we speed up the browser, the more time you have to search more, badda bing badda boom.” The media, defused, tries weakly with the You’re killing Firefox play; no, we’re not, we’re using Firefox stuff and continuing to support them. That actually makes sense, since Chrome is not about share but about driving the innovation cycle.

Here’s where the Microsoft angle starts to show through. Brin responds to a loopback to the Borg story by saying he would be thrilled if Microsoft used Chrome under an IE 9 skin. Of course, the room chuckled as glances out the window revealed no airborne pigs. Brin then nailed the wiggle room shut by suggesting he’d be just as happy if Microsoft copied the whole damn thing and raised the bar accordingly. Badda boom badda bing.

Listen to Sergey’s responses to the Apple and Silverlight questions in the clip below, then you tell me whether this comes from a hatred of Microsoft or the strategic move to extend the driver’s seat role that FIrefox commandeered for the last three versions of Gekko. This seems much more like a partnering with Microsoft, or at least the parts of Microsoft who own Mesh and Silverlight. In fact, the moment is surprisingly reminiscent of a time when Microsoft used the Mac as its own playground to seed Office iterations on the premier client for content creation.

If Silverlight can play comfortably in Chrome, with a nod toward Moonlight to fill in the Linux blank, then Chrome becomes the junction point between Mesh and App Engine. Mesh apps can take advantage of the tab sandboxes as easily as Flash did in the demos, giving Mesh a container within a container to be stitched together across processes with Mesh pubsub. As the Chromium Developer Documentation says, “In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application.”

Hard to swallow? Brin says the Mac version should be ready in two months, and requests that we do our part to prod his dev team along. That dovetails quite nicely with the PDC at the end of October, and gives Ray Ozzie both the incentive and the pressure necessary to keep Mesh open. The tail is doing a good job of wagging the dog.