Google sees new browser as defensive move

Google launched its web browser in part to stop its rival, Microsoft, from "Balkanising" the internet by carving it up in ways that favoured its own services, the internet company's chief executive officer said on Wednesday.

Speaking in a video interview with the Financial Times at the Republican national convention in St Paul, Eric Schmidt said Google's Chrome browser had been built mainly to create a more secure and stable platform for internet users.

However, he also conceded that "there is a defensive component" to the decision as Google tries to prevent Microsoft from using its dominant Internet Explorer browser to outflank it.

"Microsoft has a history of favouring its own applications and I can give you 500,000 pages of court testimony, document web blogs and so forth and so on about that," he said.

Invoking the internet's most famous competitive battle - Microsoft's defeat of browser-maker Netscape that led to a US antitrust investigation - Mr Schmidt added: "We think that the browser continues to be an important platform; that the browser wars of 10 years ago were right: the browser matters."

The launch of Chrome this week, though rumoured for the two years it had been under development, marked an abrupt change of course from Google's earlier position and highlighted the high stakes of this latest version of the browser wars.

"It is true that we actually, and I in particular, have said for a long time that we should not do a browser because it wasn't necessary," Mr Schmidt said.

"The thing that changed in the past couple of years . . . is that people started building powerful applications on top of browsers and the browsers that were out there, in particular in Explorer, were not up to the task of running complex applications."

Mr Schmidt hinted at Google's long-term aims of challenging Microsoft's dominant position in corporate software, saying Chrome would be a platform for "powerful industrial apps".

"There is an opportunity for a platform and that platform for running these new applications is something that you can't really do on IE7, and that's the argument," said Mr Schmidt.

Mr Schmidt added that Chrome, as an open-source piece of software, could not be used to direct browser traffic to Google's own internet services.

By Chrystia Freeland in St Paul and Richard Waters in San Francisco

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