Is Google building a web browser?
I'd bet on it.
Google, our friendly search engine giant is very likely taking a look at developing their own web-browser. Some may say that building a web browser is a great way to waste millions of dollars but for Google it's a strategic necessity in order to continue to deliver the best of breed in web-based applications.
Motivation - Google has started off with a core searching platform and is expanding this platform to include content publishing (blogger), email (Gmail), discussion groups (Google groups), photos and imaging (Picasa), mapping (keyhole/maps), video and more. Each of these technologies has extended what people think of as a 'web-application.' These products have pushed the bounds of what is possible with a modern web-browser. In fact anyone familiar with the technical hurdles needed to achieve some of the effects knows that most of these technologies needs to be coded separately for each web-browser and that many of them are very fragile. Google would love a robust web-application platform that could be used to build robust and dynamic web applications.
Unique perspective - Google has a global audience that is looking for leadership in user experience. Google could keep adding features and figuring out ways to make their applications work with all browsers but it turns out to be a large developer effort.
Consider an alternative. Imagine if Google decided to use the FireFox as a code base for a new browser. One that's not based on HTML but on it's own invention for creating layout adding text and data and mixing it with server/client interaction. Google could convert it's internal sites to support the new technology and support for HTML would preserve compatibility with the millions of existing sites. If you could have a rich-client email experience by going to a website then the idea of downloading and installing software seems arcane.
Now consider this. If Google does creates a new browser that's not based on HTML it can be designed in such a way that doorway pages, hidden text, click forging and other search manipulation is much more difficult to create and easier to detect.
The pieces are all coming into place for such a power play. In addition rumors seem to indicate that such a browser team may be forming in Kirkland, WA, just out of earshot from Microsoft.
Google's to do list:
Search portal, check.
Email application, check.
File searching, check.
Web Publishing, check.
Imaging and Photos, check.
Calendar - to do.
Web-browser - to do.
Disclosure, I own Google stock.