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What Chrome means for Microsoft

Redmond gets back to work on Tuesday with more than just another browser to contend with.

Aiming to react quickly to Google's Chrome announcement, Microsoft focused on how Chrome stacks up against Internet Explorer.

"The browser landscape is highly competitive, but people will choose Internet Explorer 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips, respects their personal choices about how they want to browse and, more than any other browsing technology, puts them in control of their personal data online," Internet Explorer General Manager Dean Hachamovitch said in a statement.

Hopefully for Redmond, though, it recognizes this as far more than an attack on Internet Explorer 8. Google was already a big supporter and partner of Mozilla. If it really just wanted a better browser, it would have just stepped up its investment in Firefox.

In Google's own words, Chrome is as much about being a platform for Web applications as it is a means for viewing Web pages.

"What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for Web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build," Google said on the company's official blog.

Although today one needs Windows to run Chrome (Mac and Linux versions are coming soon), it is not hard to see how Chrome is a threat to Microsoft's operating system dominance.

Imagine, in the not too distant future, a Linux-based machine with Chrome and lots of Chrome apps. Hmm...That's starting to sound like a pretty big threat to Microsoft indeed.

That said, people have predicted the browser would overtake the operating system since the Netscape days and the OS has remained important. The key question for Microsoft is can it create enough experiences that are better outside of a browser/Web app engine to maintain the OS as not just relevant, but worth an extra $100 in the cost of a PC.

The competition, though, is not limited to PCs. A more competitive browser-as-platform from Google could mean more headaches for Microsoft on the mobile front as well. Microsoft is already playing catch-up in the mobile browser arena as it tries to take on the iPhone's Safari browser. Microsoft has promised to have a version of Internet Explorer 6 on Windows Mobile by year's end, but it is unclear how close that will get the company to its already existing competition, let alone new entrants.

Click here for full coverage of the Google Chrome launch.