Google, Android and Chrome

Google’s having a busy time, making waves that have been felt all around the mobile and web world — especially the latter.

First up, Android — a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications. That’s not our description, but Google’s.

We’d describe Android as Google’s attempt to give Linux a pretty face before putting it onto mobile phones as part of the company’s ongoing endeavour to conquer the world, perhaps as part of the Doctor Who Christmas special plotline.

Google’s dastardly plan began in January, when it launched the Android Developer Challenge. This encouraged geeks to devise applications for Android in the hope of winning some cash. Some serious cash: a total of $10-million in prize money was offered. Google gave 50 developer teams $25 000 each just to open their netbooks. Those who made the most “innovative apps” would win much more.

The geeks got to work and, eight months on, the results are just in: 10 entries each bagged a top prize of $275 000, and 10 more grabbed equal shares of $1-million. Where did the remaining millions go? This moolah’s been set aside for part two of the challenge, scheduled to begin when the first Android handsets go on sale — which happens to be about now.

What innovative ideas did all this money reward? $275 000 went to CompareEverywhere, a price-comparison service that uses snapshots of product barcodes to look up the most competitive deals online.

Another $275 000 went to GoCart, a price-comparison service that uses snapshots of product barcodes to look up the most competitive deals online. Fortunately, most of the remaining 48 finalists innovated beyond barcode-scanning.

Meanwhile, Google has been doing some “innovating” of its own: it’s invented a web browser. Google Chrome, which was released in beta yesterday, is pitched as a reinvention of the browser. For our money, though, Google’s real innovation was to turn a press release into a comic book that supposedly slipped out early. A slip-up that’s garnered Google plenty of press for Chrome, naturally.

So what is Chrome? The cartoon press release is at www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/, but if you’re still lacking time, Google says that Chrome bolsters stability by treating websites not as websites but as applications, supposedly ensuring that one sickly site won’t cause every other one in your browser to keel over.

It’s impossible to see the arrival of a browser from Google as anything but a push into the last internet space that it doesn’t yet have a foot in — and hence as an elbow in the ribs to Microsoft, which is releasing Internet Explorer 8, as well as Firefox and Mozilla.

Existing browsers date back to the 1990s, it says — a subtle dig. Does the future have a chrome finish? —

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