Sheri-McLeish by Sheri McLeish

Today’s news that Sony’s Vaio-brand computers are coming installed with the Google Web browser Chrome for users in the U.S. and Europe provides immediate legitimacy. The computers will also have Microsoft’s IE8 installed, but it makes Sony the first PC maker to sell computers with Chrome pre-installed. This opens the door for Google to rapidly boost consumer market share for its browser and signals that:

  • Chrome is really ready for prime time. For Sony to agree to offer Chrome to its new Vaio buyers means that it’s passed muster to meet Sony’s user requirements. Chrome’s been touted for its speed and characteristic Google simplicity, but recent news reports show IE8 outperforming Chrome from a security perspective. In Chrome 2.0, Google added protections against cross-site request forgery and clickjacking that must offer enough improvement to assure Sony that it doesn’t pose a risk its buyers.
  • Market share for Microsoft will continue to erode. For years Microsoft’s benefited from having IE pre-installed on new hardware. But as the result of anti-Microsoft backlash, court rulings in Europe, and increasing use of the web, adoption of alternative browsers has been creeping up. Firefox nets nearly 20% of the enterprise browser market and estimates of its adoption by consumers are more than double that. IE has never been more vulnerable, and Google can get a quick boost in market share with this move. Sony doesn’t disclose sales figures, but reports say it expects to sell 6.2 million PCs globally in the next year.
  • Consumers will lead but enterprise likely won’t follow soon. While this move gives Google more street credibility with consumers, Forrester doesn’t believe that it signals an exodus from IE as the “official” browser for enterprises. Most organizations are standardized on some version of IE and continue to employ it because of the ease of centralized control and administration. Many are still locked into IE6 because of custom developed apps or third-party apps that only work with that browser version. Until Google invests in providing IT administrators with tools for managing or migrating apps (or perhaps inks a deal with OEMs that offer Chrome on business machines), IE will continue to dominate the enterprise landscape.

For Google, getting Chrome onto more consumers’ computers provides a foundation for its search engine as the default, along with the host of other services it offers, such as Google Docs. In speaking with information workers, consumers, and IT managers, Forrester hears again and again that the decision to go with Google or Microsoft is usually made once, and then the choice for everything else falls out of that decision. With the availability of Chrome alongside IE8 on Sony’s Vaio-brand computers, as well as Windows 7 being shipped in Europe minus IE8, the choice for many consumers becomes much more prominent and rapid.