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Will Google's Chrome Finish Microsoft?


New browser to take on Internet Explorer.

Google (GOOG) is launching yet another volley in its war against Microsoft (MSFT): The Internet juggernaut is releasing Chrome, its own web browser.

Google says Chrome is more sophisticated than existing browsers and better able to display the dynamic and interactive content now available on the Internet.

Google has previously slugged it out with Microsoft by supporting Firefox, an open-source browser developed by Mozilla. Firefox is the second most popular browser, with about 10% of the market. Google has extended its advertising alliance with Firefox through 2011.

Google announced the new product over the Labor Day weekend, in the form of a comic book pegged to its release. The 38-page comic was sent to reporters in Europe and explained the technical whizzes and whirrs in layman's terms. Word rapidly spread throughout the Internet.

Like Firefox, Google's Chrome will be open source. That allows other developers to contribute to the project, or use it as a template for their own.

Google's new browser is scheduled to be available for free downloads Tuesday. The first version runs on personal computers using Microsoft's Windows operating system. Versions for Mac OS X and Linux are forthcoming.

Last week, Microsoft announced the release of Internet Explorer 8. The updated version includes an InPrivate setting -- known as "porn mode" among geeks -- that allows users to hide their browsing history from others using the same computer. Competitors offer similar features, but Microsoft's setting is more prominently displayed.

Microsoft's shield could make it more difficult for Google and others to generate revenue from search-based advertising.

Google routinely collects information from user searches in order to serve up relevant ads. If large numbers of people suddenly decide to take advantage of Microsoft's new privacy button, Google's click-through display advertising could take a hit. Google generates about 90% of its revenue from search advertising.

Microsoft has attempted to outflank Google by investing heavily in its own search engine. It also made an unsuccessful bid to buy Yahoo (YHOO) for about $47.5 billion.

Two years ago, Google brought a complaint to the Justice Department, charging that changes to Internet Explorer made it more difficult to install search toolbars made by Microsoft's rivals. Regulators didn't intervene, but Microsoft later changed the way Explorer handled search toolbars developed by competitors.

Google's strong brand name is no guarantee of success in the browser wars. Google's instant messaging service, for example, still trails products offered by Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL, a subsidiary of Time Warner (TWX).
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