Google's new Chrome browser, which was launched yesterday, is more about the search engine's attempts to kill Windows than it is about offering a new browser, say industry observers.

A beta version of the open source browser is available to download now. Chrome includes a new JavaScript engine that Google says will power web applications better and faster than other browsers. Google Gears, which will provide offline access and local storage for web applications, is also embedded in the browser.

Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, said Chrome could be the key piece in Google's effort to convince users to replaced packaged software with web applications.

"This is the potential threat that Microsoft has been worried about since the 1990s," he said. "You've got web apps running inside isolated processes. It really sounds a lot like Google trying to take the web application model and make it more viable as a replacement for the desktop PC application model. This is Google trying to really push applications to the web and make that the way people do computing."

TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington said in a post that Chrome is "nothing less than a full on desktop operating system that will compete with Windows." Because Google has built its own JavaScript engine, he said, Ajax applications like Gmail and Google Docs should "absolutely roar", he added. When combined with Google Gears - which provides offline access to web apps - Chrome becomes a potential "Windows Killer", he contended.

"Expect to see millions of web devices, even desktop web devices, in the coming years that completely strip out the Windows layer and use the browser as the only operating system the user needs," Arrington continued. "That was going to happen anyway, but Chrome plus Gears just made the decision a whole lot easier for hardware manufacturers. Microsoft, meanwhile, is stuck with a bloated closed source browser that they don't even tether to their search engine for fear of more antitrust woes. Google can push their search engine and other web services all day long on Chrome, with no government interference."

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