Google Moves Speculatively into Browser Territory

Gretchen Gallen
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – As the world's most used search engine continues to reach for the sky, including a recently filed Initial Public Offering, the beta launch of Gmail, and the unparalleled success of its Ad Words program, rumor abounds that Google Inc. is laying the groundwork for the imminent launch of a Google-branded browser.

Industry analysts have speculated recently that Google is making all the right moves to claim market share in a rarified part of the tech world so far only dominated by Microsoft, Netscape and open-source browsers like Mozilla and Firefox.

"Google's leaders believe its no-boundaries philosophy is what got it to the top and what will keep it there in the long-run," industry analyst Charlene Li told the E-Commerce Times. "It was obvious throughout their IPO process that they want to be a different company. Being willing to experiment and break down boundaries is a key part of that."

One indication of Google's browser strategy has been the recent hire of key Microsoft and Sun Microsystems employees with expertise in browser technology. Another giveaway, say analysts, is that Google reserved the URL gbrowser.com in April of this year, a few months shy of its successful transition from a private company to a public one.

Google management also reportedly filed a patent application for a browser plug-in technology.

For the past year, Google has been-neck-and-neck with Microsoft and Yahoo in a competitive struggle to maintain leadership in the search engine and paid search sectors, although industry watchers have wondered recently which new piece of the Internet pie Google will carve out in order to remain at the top of the heap.

Google's yet-undisclosed agenda comes at a time when Microsoft's Internet Explorer has been exploited by hackers to the degree that consumers have begun to consider IE alternatives in greater numbers than previously seen, and open-source browsers like Mozilla have capitalized on Microsoft's fall from grace.

Other industry watchers speculate whether Google's move into the browser market is in response to Microsoft's attempt to capitalize on the paid search market.

But analysts predict that if Google could combine a web browser with Gmail, its search technology, Google anti-pop-up software and its knack for ballooning ad dollars, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company might be sitting on its next pot of gold.

To date, Google representatives have not disclosed plans to launch a browser and representatives were unwilling to comment.

Google is also reportedly working on an instant messaging application that would rival America Online's Instant Messenger and ICQ, and Microsoft's MSN Messenger.

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page both became billionaires last month on the heels of their successful but controversial IPO. The two partners are listed at No. 43 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, with fortunes estimated at $3.965 billion.