Browser rivals confident they can compete with Google

Microsoft sure users will pick IE8; Opera, Mozilla undeterred

Browser makers Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera Software yesterday reacted to news that Google is introducing a browser of its own, saying that they welcome the competition and are not afraid of the search giant's move.

"We're not worried about Google as a competitor," said Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Norwegian browser developer Opera. "Competition keeps everyone on their toes, and so that's positive."

Microsoft, also alluding to the new competition, sounded confident as well. Although the company declined to make one of its Internet Explorer (IE) team available, it issued a statement attributed to Dean Hachamovitch, IE's general manager. "The browser landscape is highly competitive, but people will choose Internet Explorer 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips," said Hachamovitch.

Mozilla's CEO didn't publicly hit the panic button, either.

In a post to his personal blog yesterday, John Lilly acknowledged Google's entry into the browser business, saying he isn't surprised that the search company had made a move. "Their business is the Web, and they've got clear opinions on how things should be," Lilly said.

Later in his post, Lilly expressed confidence in Firefox's continued growth. "Even in a more competitive environment than ever, I'm very optimistic about the future of Mozilla and the future of the open Web," he said. "We've got a truckload of great stuff queued up for Firefox 3.1 and beyond -- things like open video and an amazing next-generation JavaScript engine, to name a couple."

Among the features that Google has touted in the still-in-beta browser, dubbed "Chrome" by the California company, is a new JavaScript interpreter called "V8" that it said came out of its Danish research group.

Other pieces of Chrome, said von Tetzchner, look suspiciously like features first unveiled in Opera. "It looks like they're kind of learning a few things from us," he said, pointing to a multi-page thumbnail display and the Chrome's positioning of tabs at the top of the of the browser's window rather than under the address bar, as rivals do. The first, said von Tetzchner, resembles Opera's Speed Dial feature, while the latter is "something we've been doing for years. So they've taken a few ideas from us. But I would prefer that we innovate and others follow us rather than the other way around."

Lilly struck that chord as well in his reaction to Google's entry. "With IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc., there's been competition for a while now, and this increases that," said Lilly. "So it means that more than ever, we need to build software that people care about and love. Firefox is good now, and will keep on getting better."

Apple Inc., which distributes Mac OS X and Windows versions of its Safari -- which is built atop the same open-source WebKit rendering engine that Google chose for Chrome -- did not respond to a request for comment on Google's push into the browser market.

Google posted a Windows XP and Vista version of Chrome to its Web site. Mac OS X and Linux editions are planned, but the company has not shared ship dates for those betas.

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Gregg Keizer

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