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Why WebKit make sense for MSFT

Speculation that Microsoft might replace the IE rendering with WebKit is running high this morning after remarks made by Steve Ballmer in Australia.  Although hardly a ringing endorsement of WebKit, here’s why Steve (and Steve Sinofsky, Mr. Windows) should consider this:

  1. The battle to own the presentation layer of the Web was lost long ago.  That presentation layer is controlled by the W3C not by any one company.  The industry, including Microsoft and Netscape, learned how damaging proprietary extensions could be during mid 90’s, and both companies vowed to support standards.
  2. Notwithstanding standards, innovation can occur in browsers – rendering speed, add-on features, and so-on.  Apple and Google are proving this.  This is the ripe area for plucking right now, as opposed to spending resources on getting the latest HTML standard to render correctly.
  3. Microsoft’s decision to push its own rendering engine is causing it immense harm in mobile.  Speaking as the CEO of a company with a browser based application, and mobile projects underway, the platforms that interest us the most are iPhone, Android and Nokia.  These are the easiest for us to support. What about Microsoft and RIM, both of which have substantial market share? BlackBerry is almost there.  RIM’s choice to build a proprietary browser, however, is working against them.  And Microsoft? Well, we don’t even IE 6 well on a desktop platform, let alone mobile. My bet is that modern mobile browsers are going to win the day.

So give it some more thought Steve (and Steve).  The IE rendering engine holds little strategic value, little opportunity for innovation, and it’s an impediment to developers supporting your mobile platforms.

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