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It's Not Magic, It's Work!

26 Apr 2006

The Great Microsoft Blunder

Love or loath him, but John Dvorak has a thought provoking article on the PC Magazine site: The Great Microsoft Blunder.

It's an interesting idea. Scared that Netscape is going to dislodge Microsoft from their monopoly, they start a dirty tricks war to exclude Netscape from the market. Microsoft didn't actually do any real software engineering, the basically licenced a browser off someone else then told their partners to support it or else.

Netscape didn't have the money to fight Microsoft and pretty much lost the war before it had started. Microsoft didn't pay attention and Netscape wasn't the enemy they thought, and open source was, in the shape of the Apache web server running on the GNU/Linux operating system, which silently took over the web server market.

Microsoft couldn't monopolise the Internet once Apache/Linux was entrenched, nor could they dislodge it, Apache/Linux is so much cheaper - no matter what Microsoft says. As Netscape was pretty much dead, they were safe to ignore the browser, Windows was king, there wasn't going to be a browser/network operating system to replace Windows. Thus IE has remained pretty much the same technical dinosaur for years.

With no viable commercial competition Microsoft has been able to squeeze the market and generated years of record profits. It ignored the Open Source community, they were just hippies without a business plan or money, and couldn't hurt the richest most profitable software company in the world.

Out of the ashes of Netscape rose the Mozilla browser, slowly at first but over time it has matured into the fabulous Firefox browser. At the same time Konqueror has appeared in the Linux community, and the ever present Opera has gradually won powerful friends. These viable alternatives are all more standard compliant - making them easier to work with, faster, and more importantly SAFER. Just as they appeared in a stable form, a string of high profile security glitches have plagued IE.

While you could argue that IE is a loss leader that Microsoft uses to feed their MSN site, John has a point, they could easily use Opera or Firefox, the browser is a commodity, and it's not worth paying to develop for. Their plans to propriartise the Internet failed, so maybe now is the time for Microsoft to exit the browser market...