The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Depending on their experience, Mac users have reason to either mourn or rejoice the end of Microsoft's development of Internet Explorer for the Mac OS.

Microsoft is discontinuing development for Internet Explorer in part because of Apple's new Web browser, Safari. Apple is in a unique position of having unfettered access to the operating system that no other developer has.

Cute how much people are making of this, since Microsoft is notorious for hoarding its OS code and thus putting third-party developers at a disadvantage. It's characterized as MS getting a dose of its own medicine; it is, but in little more than principle. Microsoft isn't going to be hurting from this move.

What's curious is how this news is being reported out of the context of Microsoft's earlier announcement that they would stop issuing IE as a standalone program altogether, instead thoroughly embedding it into future versions of the Windows OS. In other words, in the near future, you want to use IE, you gotta have a computer that runs on the latest version of Windows. And if MS has it's way, websites (or, more specifically, website developers) will incorporate more and more IE-specific functions, thus making Windows a near-prerequisite for using the Internet. Very clever, Mr. Bond.

Of course, the Big Redmond Machine has been backpedalling a bit on their future browser plans, but unless someone stops them, I'm sure this will come to pass.

My question is, what was the point of all that legal wrangling during half the 1990s if MS is going ahead with this? This is the ultimate in browser integration. Aren't they supposed to have been barred from doing anything resembling this? I realize the Bush administration signalled early that it would lay off on the prosecution, but what about MS's business rivals? If I were them, I'd be raising the red flags non-stop.

Naturally, there are plenty of free browsers available out there. I use one of them regularly. But the fact that they're available is pointless. Without promoting their existence to the mainstream (i.e., non-computerheads), they'll always live in the margins. And there's no way they can compete with an embedded program.