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Google takes on Microsoft by launching free browser

Google takes on Microsoft by launching free browser

Google is opening a new front in its battle with Microsoft by launching a free web browser today in 100 countries.

Google Chrome will take on Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which accounts for 72% of installed browsers after shoving aside rival programme Netscape in the 1990s' "browser wars".

It will also compete with the second strongest player, Mozilla Firefox, which has 20% of the market and grew out of Netscape.

Google is a key partner of Mozilla and last week the two groups extended their partnership agreement until 2011, which includes a provision for Google to be the default search engine in Firefox.

Some observers believe Google has abandoned its stance that it did not need a browser because of its growing concern not only over Explorer's default setting to Microsoft's Live Search but also the direction that Microsoft is taking with Explorer.

Last week Microsoft introduced an Explorer update that can block access to users' browsing habits from third-party sites.

Google's strategy of launching its own internet-based applications such as email, spreadsheets and word processing means the company is more reliant on browser technology.

This was acknowledged by a Google vice-president of product management, Sundar Pichai, in Google's explanation of Chrome.

Pichai said: "We realised that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser.

"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."

In true Google style, the news about Chrome emerged in the form of a digital comic.

Google has said Chrome will be available for download later today and will post a link to it from its official blog site.

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