Why bother competing with the companies you rely on ?

In a market, where there is already competition, it sometimes seems odd that a new competitor wants to get involved.  Or it sometimes seems odd that a commercial company spends a lot of time developing software which they are just going to give away for free (and not even make any money on consultancy fees).  Google Chrome is an example.  Android is another.  And there are less well known non-Google variants I can think of too.

The principle is simple:  in this day and age distribution costs nothing.  The only cost is manpower.  So if you can afford to spend the manpower to make something good, people will start to use it.

Why might you want this?  Mainly to influence the market.  If you’re selling a product which depends on other people’s products, then you are dependent on what those other people’s products offer.  Google was dependent on the web browser – really on Firefox and IE.  And they had no place in the phone market, because, in the days pre android smart phones were more a curiosity than anything else.  If Google wanted to improve their product, they needed their platform to improve.

But Firefox and IE were not going the way Google wanted fast enough.  And the phone market needed a kick up the proverbial.

So Google entered with their solutions.  Chrome (which brought with it far faster JavaScript parsing, and better reliability features), and Android (which at least now gives the iPhone something to keep up with).  Presumably these cost Google far more than they make – but they ensure not only is there competition in the market they build on top of – but that they control the competition.

Google probably don’t care less if you use an iPhone or Opera.  What they care about is that you can use Google on them exactly the way Google would like you to.

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