Thursday, October 09, 2008

Chrome benchmark: math is slow, but will improve -- bad news for Microsoft

Several people ran benchmarks when Google Chrome came out, and concluded that it was faster than Internet Explorer and Firefox. But others, for example this article on 10 things to love (and hate) about Google Chrome, found Chrome to be no faster. Relative speed depends upon the benchmark.

I created a Google Spreadsheet that computes 200 sines, cosines, squares and square roots. Recalculation was noticeably slower with Chrome (23 seconds) than Firefox (2 seconds) or Internet Explorer (10 seconds).

The bad news for Google is that they will have to improve the efficiency of their math libraries. The good news is that Firefox has demonstrated that it can be done. More good news -- the user will not have to install new software when it is ready. It will automatically download when the application is used.

The bad news for Microsoft is that they too will have to improve the speed of math calculations in Internet Explorer. That will not be difficult for them to do, but doing so will have a bad-news side effect -- it will narrow the speed gap between Excel and Google Spreadsheet.

This is just one example. Microsoft will be forced to improve Internet Explorer to keep up with Google, Firefox and others. But every time they improve Internet Explorer, they chip away at the advantage their dedicated Office applications have over the network applications of Google and others. The performance gap between desktop and network-based programs narrows.

Can you think of other new technologies that painted an old technology into a corner? If you were running Microsoft, how would you deal with this situation?