Google (GOOG) likes to blow up entire industries. Two weeks ago, the search giant dropped a bomb on the GPS industry with the release of its free and open-source voice-activated navigation app -- sorry, Garmin (GRMN) and TomTom. Google is also in the process of blowing up the productivity applications business with its Google Apps offering, a suite of online email, word processing and other tools that costs a fraction of the price of Windows Office and other Microsoft (MSFT) software.
Today, Google's new Chrome browser-based OS came into clearer focus, and from the looks of it, Google may be en route to blowing up a handful of other businesses.This will likely be a slow-motion explosion, if it happens. Chrome is a year away from retail shelves, and who knows what could happen in that time. But if Chrome gets traction, there's a long list of companies that Google could essentially destroy. Here's an abbreviated list that could be in for big trouble if Chrome goes platinum:
Symantec, McAfee (SYMC, MFE): Antivirus and PC security companies provide software that detects intruders and prevents users from downloading viruses or getting hacked. Chrome will essentially eliminate downloaded software by keeping all software running in the confines of a browser window and over the Internet. Thus, Chrome will obviate the need to prevent people from downloading bad software or allowing evil hackers to control their machine.
Digital River (DRIV): This is the biggest e-commerce outsourcing company, with a clientele largely comprising software publishers. Symantec is among its leading customers. (Can you see a pattern developing here?) If customers have no need to download antivirus software, Digital River ceases to have a reason to exist. Some of its business is more nuanced and sophisticated, including inventory management, tax strategy and localization. This company has been a hedge fund darling based on the assumption that software downloads will continue to be normal routine. Some of those hedge funds may be bummed about their choice to buy DRIV right about now.
Best Buy (BBY): The dirty little secret of Best Buy is that it makes no money selling the actual computer hardware. All its revenue in that sector comes from selling support warranties and attached items -- which means, primarily, boxed software and accessories. Without warranty revenue, Best Buy takes a major hit. A significant percentage of PC, laptop and netbook customer-support calls and problems are related to bad software or too much software. If you eliminate software downloads from the equation -- as Chrome aims to do -- then you make warranties far less useful and compelling.
Likewise, if you can't download software to a Chrome machine, you certainly can't install it on one via DVD. Goodbye, boxed software sales. Granted, Best Buy sells lots of other things. But take away the profits from its PC segment, which garners a lot of warranties and attached items sales, and it might not be a pretty picture.
Alex Salkever is Senior Writer at AOL Daily Finance covering technology and greentech. Follow him on twitter @alexsalkever, read his articles, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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