Looking to make up lost market share in the browser arena, Google this week is polishing its Chrome with some new features meant to attract more business users. The features will make it easier to switch seamlessly between browser versions and customize their use of Chrome using cloud-based management.
As of last month, Microsoft's industry leading Internet Explorer had a commanding lead with more than 55 percent of the market, while Mozilla's Firefox came in second with more than 20 percent, according to the software firm NetApplications.
Based on browsers accessing that company's servers in February, Chrome had just 16.27 percent of the market.
Gaining confidence among enterprise IT departments, which collectively manage millions of computers, can go a long way toward boosting that share. Although the browser costs nothing to own and use, it's a gateway to other moneymaking products and services.
"Google's new initiative is a classic exercise in vendor 'stickiness' with Chrome providing the glue," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"Google could benefit both monetarily -- when customers buy Google Apps licenses and Nexus devices -- and strategically, as other applications and platforms are replaced. With user-friendly features like legacy browser support, the company is doing all it can to ensure that customers aren't discommoded. That's a wise move that should pay real dividends over time. "
In a Chrome blog post earlier this week, Google's product manager and "business buff" Cyrus Mistry said the Legacy improvement allows users to easily switch from Chrome, when designated the default browser, to an older browser that works best with a particular application, if necessary.
"Your IT administrator can now configure Chrome to automatically launch an alternate browser when you're running a Web app built for older browsers," wrote Mistry. "If you want to use Chrome at work but rely on some older apps, you can now switch seamlessly between two browsers."
Best of Both Worlds
That way, companies can continue using older applications while benefiting from modern security, speed and convenience with the newer Chrome. It will be left to IT managers to define sites that would switch the user to an older browser. (Google also offers Chrome Frame to develop apps for older browsers.)
Google is also offering new cloud-based management of Chrome for Google Apps for Business and Education customers.
"Now, whether employees are working from the company's desktop or their personal laptop, they will be able to access default applications, custom themes, or a curated app Web store when they sign in to Chrome with their work account," said Mistry, noting that more than 100 Chrome policies and preferences can be customized for employees.
Since security is paramount to businesses, Google recently added Chrome enhancements that make it easier to identify malware and prevent silent installs that download without first asking the user's permission.