A few days ago Google released a plugin for IE6, the Chrome Frame, that pretty much makes IE6 act kind of like a peppy modern browser. Microsoft got all shirty on the topic, claiming somewhat laughably that Chrome Frame made IE6 less secure, but IE6 is still the kick-me sign taped to the back of the internet and as has become typical Microsoft is getting caught with their head down on the play.
Now, like all right thinking people I don’t use Internet Explorer at all, much less the drifting, hole-filled relic that is IE6; nobody who has any say in the matter does. But I see a pretty shocking number of people missing the intuitive next step, that Chrome Frame isn’t targeted at users who have any say in the matter.
Google’s been selling their internal Search Appliances for years, and more recently started pushing the Google Apps towards business users, so it’s not much of a stretch to guess that Google will start selling Apps boxes soon, so that you can run them behind a firewall: GMail, the Apps, all of it.
And you can bet that the integration with Android handsets will be fantastic. Chrome Frame is just a part of a full-court press into the enterprise environment, and has nothing to do with web standards or user choice. Any user with any say in the matter is already using something else, and thinking about it in those terms is a mistake. It’s all about making it feasible, in cost and performance terms, to install a Google Apps appliance in large corporations.
So let me call the play as follows: this will probably be the beginning of the end for Microsoft’s long-stagnant control of that space. Windows Mobile 7 will ship late and be bad, cheap computers will keep getting better and it’s a short, very cheap step from a Google App Server to lightweight desktop clients running Android. This will have the added benefit of largely killing Android’s major corporate competition in RIM, BES integration being the only worthwhile thing about their increasingly crappy devices.
I could be making all that up, of course, but I know a couple of guys who know a couple of guys, and I get the sense from some people in that chain that all of this is not only well underway, but has quite a bit of mass and momentum behind it.