In my previous post I discussed the technical qualities of Google’s new browser, Chrome. On a strategic business level, Chrome is the kick-off for a new battle for platform dominance.
How can substituting one piece of free software (the browser) for another have such business impact? To understand that, you will have to look at the business model of Microsoft, and how it is affected by the changing ecosystem.
Microsoft makes its money not from the browser (it is free), a little from the operating system on the desktop, and quite substantially from its Office suite of applications and back-end server and database products. The online services of Microsoft are clearly behind in the market.
The Achilles heel of this model is Office. It is essential, because it locks in users. Yet, a stable Web 2.1 (see previous post) enables other parties to produce online software on a much larger scale than is currently possible. Google is already doing this with Google docs, but between the lines of the design documentation of Chrome, you can read that they have reached the limits of current browsers.
Chrome will change that, and allow for superior online alternatives to Office. That also reduces the need for running Microsoft Windows on the desktop. One of the big reasons for running a Microsoft based IT architecture is its integration: the pieces fit together, more or less. But when essential pieces drop out, the other pieces will be under discussion as well. On the server side in particular, there are a lot of viable open source alternatives.
So Microsoft is in trouble, because Chrome has repossessed the Web. By the way, the other major collateral damage will be Firefox and other open source browsers.