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Product Development & Marketing: Google Chrome


Google is producing its own browser, called "Chrome." It's a fully open source project, and the way it's designed makes it more than a browser. For all intents and purposes, it's a computer operating system.

The thing is, there are already big, established browsers. Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Firefox, which I use, has become a significant (20-33%) competitor. There's Apple's Safari, which works on both MacOS X and Windows. Not to mention Opera et. al. How do you communicate Chrome's value, against that kind of lineup?

With a comic. A rather brilliant comic that takes very technical concepts and features, and makes them easy to understand, even if you have very little technical literacy. Without compromising the comic's interest to very technical software developers.

That's hard, and pulling it off is a great example of marketing. I'd add it's also hard to beat as part of a product development process...

If you can pull off a compelling comic like this, which explains your new product's key features and why they matter, you know you have a winner, and everyone groks why the goals matter as development proceeds. If your new product or iteration looks dumb or ineffectual in the comic, doesn't have a compelling rationale, and doesn't explain (as Google's does) how it leverages the company's existing strengths, it's probably time to back to the drawing board.

It would be a great test for any would-be product team to put themselves through. And besides, deep down inside, don't we all know that a comic is really the perfect briefing medium for executives?

UPDATE: lurker makes a good catch re: data rights in Chrome. Read the fine print, indeed.


Most powerpoint presentations ARE comics, in my opinion.

By the way, last couple of comments have been posted from Chrome - but none previously. Funny synchronicity, that.

The thinking is, this is the real beginning of Google OS - especially the stripped down design, and the attention paid to sandboxing tabs, encapsulating processes TO those tabs.

Great article here (and short) - Straight out of Compton

In the long term, we think of [Chrome] as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. We avoid putting things into our UI in the same way you would hope that Apple and Microsoft would avoid putting things into the standard window frames of applications on their operating systems.

HR: "Most powerpoint presentations ARE comics, in my opinion."

Agreed. Just not as good.

I'm fully in synch with you there.

Really, if Google can pull this off (and they have a long track record of doing so), Microsoft should be terrified. Once applications are not dependent on the local client's OS, Microsoft's big one-two punch (Windows+Office) loses much of its synchronicity, and companies (which is how Microsoft stays profitable) will be the first to jump to this kind of platform, once they have an alternative where they control the applications and data. Google still has to do a few things, though, to really reach the full potential that is needed to put them in this position:

1. Come up with a stateful API that will run on Chrome. (Anyone else suspect that there is more to Android than phones?)
2. Create and release as open source a reference implementation of a server for that protocol.
3. Foster a development community around the new platform whose focus is on business applications.

If they can do these things (and I'm making assumptions that they plan to do so), then Google OS is about right, and Microsoft will be in real trouble.

Speaking of which, I haven't actually looked at Gears, but I wonder to what degree the combination of Android and Gears meets task 1?

That's good marketing. They managed to keep a 'gear guy' like me interested and impressed with the technical direction while keeping it simple enough I think someone less technical wouldn't feel overwhelmed. Previously, I had little interest in 'Chrome', but it sounds like once they get their feature set up to more modern standards that they'll be a serious force in the market.

But I suspect Microsoft will simply adopt a Chrome-like design in the 'next' IE if it looked like google had something. Microsoft has had alot of success with, 'Don't be the first adopter. Let someone else do the heavy lifting, and then steal their best ideas.'

First, I hadn't checked out the comic before, so I only knew second-hand information about it. I'm impressed with the way they got across what they were looking to. The key is on page 20: notice that the search term is for Tufte's books? "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" is one of the most important computer science books ever written, and it's precisely about how to do what they are doing: use visual means to convey dense information understandably. I am impressed.

Celebrim, I get what you are saying, but it depends on whether Chrome is a browser with a different UI or an application engine packaged as a tabbed browser. If the latter, it will be extraordinarily difficult for MS to copy, and moreover, it won't matter if they do copy it. Because if it's the latter, Google is not competing against IE, but against Windows.

Metcalf, I've been wondering the same thing about Gears. And when you consider the possibilities of Google App Engine , you have a serious, emerging threat to MicroShite. I've built some little Django apps very easily on Google App Engine. It was a lot easier than the ASP.NET compost I shovel for a living.

Gears and hosted applications on google infrastructure with native API support in Chrome? That's a knock-out.

Joe and HR, check out Tufte's devastating critique of Powerpoint for engineering and science. The replacement of traditional engineering reports with Powerpoint presentations may have helped cause the Challenger explosion.

Comic books, reports, and Powerpoint all have different "cognitive styles."

IIRC, Gears has some sort of "operate offline" capability. Not sure how much.

Jeff: I remember that one. The lead panel is a picture of a Red Square parade marching formation with one of the text balloons saying "There's NO bullet list like STALIN'S bullet list!"


Correction, even more ironic: It's a parade in Budapest after they put down the rebellion there.

It worked on me.

A friend was urging to try Chrome, but I wasn't interested. However I was willing to accommodate him to the extent of going to see what was at the link. Once there, I was interested to read the comic. Thirty-eight pages later, I was sold. The comic kept my interest the whole way, and also convinced me this is something I should try, even though I've always avoided beta versions as though they were diseased.

The fine print is a concern. Thanks lurker!

Everything else looks good.

UPDATE: lurker makes a good catch re: data rights in Chrome. Read the fine print, indeed.

Just for others who may check in - copy and pasting ruins the day again, from a different EULA.

It's interesting so far, though can't see myself switching from Firefox yet. I finally got my App Engine account, so we'll see if there are some good tie ins.

I wonder if they'll involve OpenID in this too.

I've been using Chrome, and there are some infelicities compared with things I've gotten used to in FireFox, such as field autocompletion and prompts for same; and I've seen some text-entry-field bugs -- text rendering blank or mutated on wrap, pictures not rendering on first page view -- but I will probably continue to run FFox side by side with Chrome for a while. Time to buy another monitor. And yes, Scott McCloud's sequential narrative was the sell, absolutely.

When I look at Chrome, I see the continuation of a long term strategic plan that Google has executed, not flawlessly, but without too many glitches, considering the stakes they have been playing for, which have been domination of the 'net.

It seems to me that Chrome is aimed at the relatively new and untouched mobile browser market which will be the platform where it will spread first and from where it will spread in the future. Android is part of that strategy. From their it will either spread on PCs or not.

I do not think that Google is particularly worried about dominating the desktop browser market, since, as they mentioned at their developers conference earlier this year they are most interested in making it easy for people to use the 'net, because if it is easy for people to use the net it Google will make money. Much like Microsoft's old mission statement " a computer in every home" even though MS did not make computers".

Chrome seems to fit in perfectly with the growing Google Docs universe. Which is growing in leaps and bounds as far as usage is concerned. It has already becoming an acceptable Office Suite for people to communicate remotely. I keep waiting for Grand Central, a messaging software that provides access to all of your communication devices world wide, that Google bought about 18 months ago to be integrated into their mobile plans.

Soon, mobile phones will be an archaic term, subsumed by a single mobile communication device that will be computer, credit card, map, telephone, etc.

This is made much closer by the development of Chrome. Chrome wants to be the operating system of mobile communication in much the way MS-DOS dominated the PC market. The Mobile advertising market is potentially 6 times the size of the current Desktop Market.

After a while, everything will be mobile.

Another wonderful, though less obvious thing about Chrome. Try streaming videos. It is very, very fast. YouTube, movies on demand, entertainment industry, virtual reality, the massive games market. These guys are playing for all the marbles.

And, to think, they have only been in business for ten years. Redmond is looking more and more outflanked and irrelevant daily.

Right now I use Firefox because it has extensions that I find to be critical to my work and Chrome to handle downloads and streams. When Android opens up the flood gates for new applications, things could change.

Absolutely rocks in every way. Google has once again proven that it has what is needed to deliver great products. it’s a decent browser…download time may be a dash slower than other browsers but the app load time, smooth rendering, space utilization etc are great.

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