Google gets what Mozilla wants: a Sony preinstall

Google Chrome will be shipping with Sony Vaio PCs, which may pave the way for Mozilla getting its own Firefox preinstall.

Mozilla's Firefox has maintained its steady ascent against Microsoft's Internet Explorer in the global browser market, hitting 22.98 percent vs. IE's 66.97 percent.

However, Sony has now given Google's Chrome browser something that Mozilla has struggled to obtain: a preinstall deal. As CNET reports , Google Chrome is being installed on Windows PCs alongside IE, with other distribution deals likely.

Finally, a clear choice for consumers.

Google Chrome still accounts for less than 3 percent of the global browser market, but it has something that even Firefox can't match: a dominant, global consumer brand. Google Chrome isn't interesting to Sony because of its market share in Web browsers, but rather because of its overall consumer brand coupled with steady innovation in browsers.

Intriguingly, this Chrome deal opens up the possibility that Sony, as well as other computer manufacturers, will eventually sign on to ship Google Chrome OS, Google's Netbook-optimized Linux operating system.

At the same time, this move may open the door for Mozilla to snag its own preinstall deal(s) with competitors to Sony, who will also likely want to buy into Google's brand but may prefer the Firefox option, given its wider adoption. Firefox users have been pressuring major hardware vendors to preinstall Firefox for years, but the best Mozilla has done is to get Firefox preinstalled with Linux-based notebooks and Netbooks.

That's hardly something to cheer about, given the small share of Linux in mobile personal computers.

This Google Chrome preinstall leaves an opening for Mozilla, but to capitalize on it Mozilla must improve its message. It has recently been claiming that we're hitting a "seat-belt moment" in which browser security could lead to consumers flocking to Firefox. But it's hard to get excited about browser security, no matter how important it is.

Much more interesting are Mozilla's plans to update its browser to 4.0 by the end of 2010 and to release Fennec, its mobile browser, before the end of 2009, according to TG Daily. Extending Firefox to my mobile device? That is something consumers can get excited about which, in turn, should stir up interest from hardware vendors that are looking to bridge their smartphone and laptop strategies.

Back to Sony. Its open-source credentials have been called into question due to its rootkit debacle and decision to restrict Linux on the PlayStation 3, but this new decision to preinstall Chrome should redeem it with the open-source community and give Sony a ready-made marketing machine.

The browser market, already competitive, just became even more so. Google is at the top of its game right now, but so is Mozilla. Microsoft, for its part, is reportedly holding meetings in D.C. that some Beltway insiders have dubbed as "screw Google" gatherings. But Microsoft probably should be spending more time developing innovative browser solutions to compete with Google and Mozilla.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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