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Heard Here First

Google Chrome

Told you back in August that Google is going to cancel Buzz and Sidewiki – and three weeks later they did. Oh, and the Desktop Search Windows program being discontinued, nailed that one as well!

Guess boy geniuses at Google want to wish away the Windows desktop. So “effective immediately” they cancelled the Google Pack, where they provided commonly used desktop programs, like Skype, Real Player, and Acrobat Reader, among others, in one easy download, supposedly “due to rapidly decreasing demand for downloadable software in favor of web apps.”

What’s misguided about that decision is that bundled in the Pack also were Google Picasa and  Chrome, Google Earth and Apps. The benefits of getting those onto customer systems should be clear even to Google Marketing types. I guess that Google will phase out all Windows programs that they developed or bought over the years, some of them pretty nice. Oh, wait, what about Chrome, Google’s heir apparent to the Firefox web browser?

Personas for Firefox

Firefox via Wikipedia

Firefox is a long-removed descendent of the original Netscape Navigator (if you can remember that far back.) Over last several years Google paid serious money to Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit developer of Firefox, for “search referrals,” amounting to sending hundreds of million search requests to Google servers every day. This provided 84% of Mozilla Foundation’s 2010 revenues, some $103M out of $123M. Google’s predominant position in Firefox’s search traffic, much higher than Google’s overall search penetration of 65%, comes from being the default in the Firefox search bar and the default browser home page.

But Google may be about to cut off Firefox, as their own Chrome browser has become popular. Over 20% desktop computer users currently choose Chrome, a little more than Firefox, though both are still trailing Microsoft Internet Explorer’s 42%, by a decent margin. If Google does not pay Mozilla the premium for their preferred position, Microsoft well may, to direct consumers to their proprietary Bing search engine. It would be SO ironic if Microsoft were to become the main supporter of Firefox, what after the battle that Microsoft fought against Mozilla in the late ’90s.

Indeed, Microsoft is not Google’s real competitor at this point, not with Apple and Facebook around. Still, let’s assume that Google’s special placement with Firefox incrementally accounts for 4% of their overall search traffic. That’s worth over a billion $US a year to them. Could Google be that misguided, to allow Microsoft an opening, over mere $100M?

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