Google and Sony team up in the browser business

Sony (SNE) has started to distribute the Google (GOOG) Chrome browser on its Vaio PCs, offering a small challenge to Microsoft's (MSFT) Internet Explorer and Firefox. The deal does not mean much because of Sony's small share of the computer market, but if Google can get companies with larger sales to do the same as Sony, it could begin to hurt the lead that Microsoft's IE has.

The Financial Times wrote in an exclusive report, "The renewed efforts to expand the reach of Chrome come a year after Google opened a new front in the browser wars with the surprise launch of the software."

The deal will get a lot of press coverage because it is part of the ongoing war between the world's largest software company and the world's largest search company. But the media reaction will be overdone. If the deal was with Acer, Lenovo, Dell (DELL) or HP (HPQ), it would be a sign that Chrome is making serious inroads. The Sony deal means next to nothing.

It is telling that Chrome has not gotten much more than 2 percent of the browser market, although Google markets it on its website and to its huge G-mail subscriber base. It may be that the product has very few -- if any -- advantages over the incumbents. Microsoft and Firefox both recently offered upgrades to their browsers.

Google is finding out that the user loyalty to its search engine does not extend to new products that it launches unless they have features well beyond those offered by the competition.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.


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