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Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Docs is finally growing up. The Big G this week added pagination and native printing to its Web-based word-processing software in a serious bid to rival Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Word.
We can't call this a disruptive innovation. Not yet, anyway. Mr. Softy's Office installed base is so huge that Google would have to reinvent the way we think of productivity software in order to make a serious dent. And yet dismissing this as a mere feature upgrade would also be a mistake. In beefing up Docs, Google has added heft to its Apps suite and proven that the Chrome browser can host great software as well as any computing operating system.
But don't take my word for it. Look at the software that exists inside the Chrome Web Store. At present, there are more than 3,700 apps and 10,800 extensions categorized by Google. Those are extraordinary numbers.
Give Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) and Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) partial credit for the rise of browser-based apps. Why? Browser-based software stresses processors by constantly firing off scripts that request data from remote servers. Run enough scripts in real time, and you'll soon find your laptop scorching your lap. Unless, that is, you're using a PC based on a newer multi-core chipset designed to consume less power. Intel's Sandy Bridge and AMD's Fusion come to mind.
In some ways, the rise of browser-based apps that can deliver data in real time is not so different from the rise of gaming apps that render extraordinary amounts of data each second. This is why we're seeing Chrome and Internet Explorer, among others, embedding code that directly accesses graphics processors at the system level.
Indeed, the processing horsepower required for gaming has led to big innovations in power management in the ARM architecture. NVIDIA's (Nasdaq: NVDA ) advancements in this area have made it an attractive partner for Android tablet makers, whose systems will feature both processor-intensive native and browser-based apps.
So while it's nice to see Google Docs get beefier, Chrome can and will handle a lot more. Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about the browser wars, browser-based apps, and the cloud-driven chip innovations using the comments box below.
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