Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is the European Commission living in the past?  For a few weeks now, news outlets have been reporting that the Bureaucrats of Brussels are planning to essentially re-open the browser anti-trust case against Microsoft, demanding that Microsoft allow the browser to be wholesale replaced in the operating system.

Wasn’t this resolved a decade ago?  Apparently not. 

Now Google has applied to join the case, and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker has written a moronic set of “principles” that Microsoft should be required to comply with. 

  • “Windows cannot condition a person’s ability to stay secure and / or update Windows on the use of IE.” So Microsoft is supposed to test Windows Update with every browser on the market?  And what if the browser being tested for is flawed? Is Microsoft supposed to wait until their competitors have fixed that flaw before shipping?
  • “Functionality of the operating system cannot be degraded for users of alternative browsers.” And what is Microsoft to do when the browser manufacturer chooses not to implement certain Windows features – perhaps because that manufacturer has chosen a cross platform product strategy rather than a Windows specific strategy?
  • “Option to download other browsers must be presented when a user is updating IE.” Should they also be required to provide you with an advertising budget?
  • “Option to download other browsers must be presented when a user is updating Windows.”  See the ad budget comment above.  Perhaps you would also like Microsoft to pay for your hosting as well. 
  • “Windows may not include a browser.”  Yeah, and a help system, and a file system.  Shoot, let’s go all the way back to 1960. An OS is really nothing more than a memory manager and a program loader, after all. 
  • “Microsoft must educate people about other browsers (or face fines!).”  And what ever happened to free speech?

Good God Mitchell! The market should be a meritocracy, not a bizarre mind-warping set of government legislated rules requiring one competitors products to be bundled into another.

And speaking of the market, it works well today. It’s efficient and unforgiving.  IE has been crap for a lot of years, and share is shifting away from it.  I use every browser on my PC’s these days (except Opera – could never see the point), and my current favourite is Chrome.  Just yesterday I installed Safari 4 (nice job, Apple!).  Getting and installing these browsers was easy … that’s the point of the Internet, and folks at Google and Mozilla know this.

Why don’t these folks demand the same of Apple on the Mac? How come Apple can actively deny every application to the App Store to deliver an alternate browser on iPhone?  Why isn’t the same standard being applied to every mobile handset manufacturer?  What will the world of netbook PC’s look like if every netbook must boot with every available browser, giving the user choice?

Aren’t those all “anti-competitive” acts that foreclose user choice?  At least on Windows users have a choice.  On every other platform users cannot even install an alternate browser.

So what would it really mean if Mozilla and Google got their way?  Modern browsers are integrated into every level of the operating system. Imagine the scenario where every time a competitor ships a new browser for Windows, Microsoft is required to retest the operating system and re-release it in order to be compliant with the law. The standard being demanded for Microsoft is egregious, excessive, and will cripple their ability to ever again ship an update to Windows on time.  Not that they’ve ever been good at shipping on time, mind you… but this could be the straw that finally breaks the camels back. 

And perhaps… just maybe… that’s what the folks in MountainView really want.  Ya think so?

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