Chrome Confusion: Google Must Educate Consumers on Browser and OS

While the idea behind Chrome is sound, Google needs to make sure everyday people know about it.

If Google wants people to start using its Chrome browser and upcoming Chrome OS to compete with Microsoft more aggressively, it must ensure that mainstream computer users -- not just bloggers, analysts and journalists -- know that Chrome exists. 

The company took an important step toward that goal by securing a deal with Sony in which the manufacturer will install Chrome on some of its Netbook computers, we learned Monday via The Wall Street Journal.

If Google wonders what it feels like for Microsoft to trail so much in search, Google should just look at the browser market.

"As of July, Chrome accounted for 2.6% of the global Web browser market, according to Net Applications. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer accounted for 67.7%," the WSJ reported. 

Lately, Google has shown a willingness to bring its message to a more mainstream audience. Recently, it launched a billboard campaign to push Google Apps, the web-based software that includes Gmail, Calendar, Docs & Spreadsheets. The billboards include messages that resonate with people who need IT to manage all their software needs, and show that Google, where everything is updated in the cloud, can serve as a better alternative.

But Chrome (and eventually a Chrome OS) will be a whole other ballgame. For one, browsers and operating systems just aren't sexy in the eyes of consumers. So many people have used Windows for so long you wonder if they will want to switch. The notion that it's more efficient to "run apps in the cloud" won't make any sense to many consumers. It's too jargon-y. It's too abstract.

But Google could borrow some pages from Apple's playbook. Though Apple pushes design and simplicity in its marketing, it also appeals to the real-world problems that users face; not philosophies about software design and delivery. Is your browser always running at a snail's pace? Does your computer get a virus every month? Those are questions Apple sometimes touches on in the "I'm a Mac" ads.

That said, Google shouldn't ignore Microsoft's recent effectiveness in marketing, either. Google needs to offer an effective alternative to Apple users, too. Google might argue, for instance, that with Chrome, you get the efficiency of a Mac OS for a fraction of the price.

Ultimately, it will be a tough road. Wal-Mart tried selling PCs with Linux installed on them, and we know how badly that went. But Chrome is like Linux with the shiny Google brand on it. Googleshould utilize the built in affinity it has with consumers as best it can.

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