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September 3, 2008

Yet another browser. Yet another app store. Yet another mousetrap?

LONDON, UK – It seems that even when we have enough versions of some service or product, someone comes along to do the same or try to improve it. The latest two I found come from some big players, Google and Microsoft.

Google apparently mistakenly leaked (see they do it too!) a comic that introduced their new browser called Chrome. And Microsoft is made a job posting of a new service they will provide called Skymarket.

Do we need another browser?

I’m not the only one asking that. But that’s not what I want to focus on. Of course, it’s too early to tell, since Google hasn’t released much information beyond the comic, but it seems interesting. For the techies out there, the browser is based on the same open source browsing engine as the Nokia S60 browser and Apple’s Safari.

But what disappointed me was that the comic that introduces this interesting browser was solely focused on developers. I was hoping there would be something that might say why anyone would want to use it. I mean, the rest of us. Why would we want to switch to Chrome? Why did they build things the way they did? What were the user insights that led them to work on the parts they did?

Let’s hope that they eventually do the proper customer benefits pitch. Also, since Google is opening the source code of this browser, it’ll be interesting to see if anything comes out of this that eventually makes its way into the S60 browser.

Do we need another mobile app store?

There are now at least four big phone platforms that folks watch closely: Nokia’s S60, Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. And funnily enough, they all now have some sort of software store for the phone.

Nokia has had a store in one form or another for a while. Indeed, it originated as a lunch conversation among the S60 marketing team I was on many years ago, growing and maturing into Preminet and then eventually Download!. Apple announced theirs this past summer. And Google has already talked about what its one will be like, even though the platform hasn’t launched yet (Ars Technica has an interesting take on it here).

Microsoft is the last to get on board, slipping out their plans via a job announcement.

These marketplaces are great channels for developers to distribute their applications to mobile device users (or are they?). But, what do users think? Are they any better than just browsing the web for apps? And do these marketplaces on the device actually increase usage of downloadable mobile software?

It might be too soon to really know as these new platforms start rolling out. As for Nokia’s Download!, I do know that they get a lot of traffic and downloads. Maybe I should go and check up on them and see how they are doing.

Image of a Rube Goldberg type mousetrap by staxnet