Friday, August 14, 2009

Who Will Win the Browser Wars? Make Yourself Millions!

To hear the pundits talk, the leading software companies are engaged in a "to the death" browser war.  If the pundits are not talking about browser wars, they are talking about the "killer app".  In the real world, it is rare for one software application to actually kill another application.  

There have been and will be winners and losers, not one but many.  Mr. Andreessen, the founder of Netscape, the browser that won several early wars but was then mortally wounded by the Microsoft monopoly, is backing Facebook's "Rock Melt" browser.  Andreessen sold one of his early browsers to HP for a  huge sum, he sold Netscape to AOL for an even larger sum and now his is a major investor in Rock Melt, where he will make another huge sum. While his Netscape browser came very very close to having Google type success, wouldn't we all like to make a few billion off of our "failures"?

Google is introducing a new version of its browser.  The code name for this one is Caffeine.  One can compare installing Caffeine to Junior Johnson putting a new 457 engine in his moon shinning car.  Microsoft recently pulled a Curtis Turner, when it pulled its search engine and replaced it with "Bing".  Maybe if I had said Lee Petty (Curtis Turner's nemesis and Richard Petty's father) more of you would understand the stock car analogy I am trying to make.  The point is that instead of being in a fight to the death, search engine makers are in a race; they are constantly updating their engines because the fastest player wins more trophies.

Microsoft and Facebook occasionally draft off one another.  Google, Firefox, Safari, Myspace and others occasionally draft off one another.  The best racing competitors are willing to cooperate with other competitors when it helps both parties.  Bing put in a turbo charger a couple of weeks ago and was able to add the number three Yahoo car to its team.  The result have been a small but significant move on Google.  Google.  Google has been preparing its response since 2005.  Google is ready roll out a very fast car.  My take is that Google is more than ready to run with Bing.  On the other hand, I must admit that Facebook has arrived at the track with another fast car.  

While we know that Bing is the engine for some of the Facebook inquiries, my take on Rock Melt is that it is like Facebook's new number 43; a fast car with lots of sponsors.  Rock Melt will be centered around its users news stream.  When a Facebook users submits a search inquiry, he will receive very relative search results from all the web sites that are hooked together by Facebook Connect.  This is a big deal.

Pundits have been quick to whine about how much knowledge Google has about our lives.  But, when Facebook users voluntarily post many details about their lives, they give Facebook access to an advertising agencies dream.  The trade off, indeed benefit, for consumers is that they receive a much smaller amount of targeted advertisement rather than a ton of senseless and irrelevant rubbish.  The fact that Google and Facebook know not to bombard me with Tampax ads is a real blessing.

The powerful relevancy that will be available in Facebook "Rock Melt" search gives every web site a powerful incentive to offer Facebook Connect.  A couple of days ago, NBC News announced that it is adopting Facebook Connect on its long list of web sites.  It would be foolish for any company to turn a cold shoulder to Facebook's 250 million users.

ECONOMIC BOOM!

Few people seem to be aware of the economic boom that is underway.  Scores of data points are available to prove my point.  This morning, I'll give you four:  1) since the market bottom in March, the world wide stock market is up 55% 2)  US GDP is projected to grow at better than 3% in this quarter 3) China's GDP is projected to grow double digits 4) Nielsen reports that 11.2 Billion Video Streams were downloaded in July!  A 31% increase in one year.  Almost 2 video streams per month for every man, woman and child on the planet!  If 11.2 billion grows at 31% for three years, it becomes 24.6 billion!  No matter how big the "data pipes and the pumping stations", there is going to have to be major construction to handle all the volume.  A major investment cycle is underway.

Much of the new volume is coming through cell connected devices.  Data plans cost a lot of money, typically at least $25 per month.  However, Internet 2.0 for the masses is also on the way.    

The Zune HD, which is the Microsoft answer to the iPod, will be released in a few days.  For less than $300, one can purchase a Wifi enabled media device.  While $300 is not chicken feed, WiFi is becoming more and more available for free.  For example, a few days ago, AT&T and Barnes and Noble announced that WiFi will be available at Barnes and Noble stores free of charge.  The person who cannot afford either broad band service or cell phone service can hang out at Panera Bread, McDonalds or Barnes and Noble and download music and video for immediate or later consumption.  Verizon and ATT are offering small computers for $99 to $199 with the purchase of a data plan while a company in China is offering, sans data plan, a $99 WiFi enabled laptop!  In the near future, laptop computers will be "sold" like cell phones; you will get a decent machine free if you sign up for a data plan.  Furthermore, low end data plans will become increasingly cheap.  Indeed, under a new law, if you qualify for food stamps or Medicaid, you automatically qualify for a free connection.  

The Zune HD which is about the size of a stack of 10 3 x 5 cards, packs the computing power of most computers.  With a Zune, one can do more things than one can do on most desk tops.  One can listen to free FM-HD radio, download music, video's and podcasts, visit web sites and do all the social networking stuff.  Another use for the device is as a VCR.  Hook the device to ones TV and play all the good videos on the big screen in HD format!

WHO WILL WIN THE BROWSER WARS?

The consumer will!  Information is power, low price, joy and sorrow rolled into one.  Browsers give us almost instant access to information.  I hope you enjoy the service and that you make yourself a nice chunk of change during the ECONOMIC BOOM!          

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