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Google Browser on its way!
September 19, 2004 -- Google, $1.67 billion richer from its August initial public offering, is spending its money poaching the brightest minds from arch-rival Microsoft and other tech giants.
Based on the half-dozen hires in recent weeks, Google appears to be planning to launch its own Web browser and other software products to challenge Microsoft.
Google has wooed Joshua Bloch, one of the main developers of the Internet programming language Java, from Sun Microsystems.
The company also hired four people who worked on Microsoft's Web browser, Internet Explorer, and later founded their own company. One of them, Adam Bosworth, is credited with being a driving force not only behind IE, but Microsoft's database-management program, Access.
Most recently, Google grabbed Joe Beda, the lead developer on Avalon, Microsoft's code name for the user interface that will part of the next version of Windows, called Longhorn.
Beda even keeps an online diary of what it's like to be a "Noogler," as new Google employees are called. He won't reveal what he's working on but mentions that each Noogler is given a hat with a propeller on the top. "Google is a magnetic pull for smart technology people," said Gary Stein, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "They're really trying to broaden their tech base. This is all about putting smart kids in a Google sandbox."
Neither Google nor the employees will comment on the hiring spree, but analysts note that the talent allows the company to challenge Microsoft on its own turf.
Stein said Google could — and probably is — working on almost everything. He believes the company will launch a product that searches for online music, because it already has a program that trolls the Web for images.
Other blogs and analysts believe Google is working on an instant-messaging program and a Web browser to challenge Internet Explorer.
The browser strategy is supported by other clues as well. Last month, Google hosted Mozilla Developer Day on its campus, a gathering of programmers that work together to build sequels to the re-named Netscape browser. Mozilla, which is "open source" and available to anyone, could be shaped to Google's specifications and be embedded with Google search, Gmail free e-mail and other Google applications.
"I'm willing to bet that somewhere in the Google computer system are the seeds of a browser," Stein said.
The broader concept Google is pursuing is similar to the "network computer" envisioned by Oracle chief Larry Ellison during a speech in 1995.
The idea is that companies or consumers could buy a machine that costs only about $200, or less, but that has very little hard drive space and almost no software. Instead, users would access a network through a browser and access all their programs and data there.
The concept floundered, but programmers note that Google could easily pick up the ball. Already, its Gmail free e-mail system gives users 100 megabytes of storage space on a remote network — providing consumers a virtual hard drive.
"I think a similar thing [to the got network computer] is developing in a more organic way now," said Jason Kottke, a New York-based Web developer who follows Google's moves. "People are ready for it. Instead of most of your interaction happening with Windows or Mac, you're spending a lot of time with Google-built interfaces."
On his blog, new Google employee Bosworth describes a "Web services" world where a project could be checked and updated from any terminal on the road — while other employees can make changes from other places.
Bosworth wouldn't reveal exactly what he's up to at Google, except to say the software he's developing is for "mere mortals. In fact, my Mom."
For as much as outsiders are speculating about Google's next product, so employees inside the company are doing the same thing, Stein said. "Google's strategy is to throw a handful of seeds and to see what grows," he said.