The European browser elections and other tech news links

July 27, 2009

Microsoft says the best way to resolve its dispute with European Union competition regulators may be an election.  The software giant spelled out late on Friday Brussels time plans for an election-style ballot to decide the question of which browser consumers use in Windows.

The forthcoming Windows 7 operating system would offer a “ballot screen” that lets consumers turn off Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer (IE) and instead use rival browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari Google Chrome or Opera Software.

Microsoft browser ballot proposal

 There are two obvious issues with this approach: 1. Most consumers rely on default settings and rarely change their browsers once they are installed. Will more than a small percentage of users elect to change browsers at the moment they are installing Windows?

2. But the big question is whether the majority of consumers who haven’t had much choice of using Internet Explorer over the past decade will find that their favourite Web sites work with other browsers. Sure, all the major browser alternatives are designed to support Web standards. But the issue will be the degree to which Web site developers themselves have played along and supported alternatives to IE. Of course the latest modern Web sites will work. But what about the hundreds of thousands of sites built for lazy IE users?

eBay is set to announce on Monday plans to make the online auction site a more attractive place for large merchants to dispose of unsold or out-of-season inventory in another move away from its roots as an online flea market or garage sale, AuctionBytes says. EBay isn’t commenting directly on the plan. But last week, Mercent, an indepenent developer of marketing systems for retailers, appears to have jumped the gun by saying it was offering a product listing platform for large merchants selling on eBay.

Ericsson’s last-minute US$1.13 billion bid for the wireless assets of bankrupt Nortel deprived Nokia Siemens and a third rival bidder of the prize. The bad news is that Ericsson ended up spending nearly twice as much as the $650 million Nokia Siemens originally bid for the assets a few weeks earlier.

The auction outcome dims the chances that Nortel will remain one company instead of being split into pieces.

Late last week, Palm introduced a software work-around that lets its Pre smartphone once again synchronize music and videos with Apple iTunes media management software. Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu points out that, in effect, Palm was hacking Apple’s closely controlled software for a quick fix.

Earlier this month, Apple introduced a version of iTunes that blocked Palm Pre devices from synching with iTunes, in a potentially crushing blow to Pre’s hopes of competing with Apple’s iPhone. Wu writes:

We do not believe hacking third-party software to work with one’s hardware is a viable long-term business model, especially for a publicly traded company


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An election probably won’t make much of a difference either, Microsoft has such a dominant market position that 85% of all computer users only know about Windows and probably vote for the system they are already familiar with.

How about other web browsers : I’m thinking of Ti-Took (, AOL, etc?

The proposed “European browser elections” recalls the legal battle with Netscape. The point missed at that time is still the case today. When Windows 98 came out it had incorporated Internet Explorer 4 into the operating system making it possible to move toolbars. Internet Explorer 4 could also be loaded on Windows 95 to allow the same function. Internet Explorer has been a part of Windows ever since making it vulnerable to attacks on that browser.

Microsoft should take a lesson from their battle with Netscape. They could have diffused the issue then by offering to include Netscape on the Windows CD.

The offer of an election is self-serving compared to making all major contenders available as a choice of browsers right from the desktop. Recall that when most of the public was still on dialup, there was a selection of Internet Service Providers available at startup. The same type of option could be made with the browsers.

While this all very interesting for computer savvy intellectuals and social engineers ( EU ) in particular to create alternatives to IE, the general public is not interested. The computer is an access point for their interaction media. The web browser is a tool to enable the access. If you need a hammer to pound a nail in a hole and you are not a professional construction worker or cabinet maker, you really don’t care about the make. The issue is ease of access and does it work. Giving these customers a myriad of choices is a waste of time for which they also do not wish to pay the cost.
I have Firefox available as an alternative to IE, which the EU made the only web access into their new chemical registration monster program, REACH, to of course discover the vast majority of businesses could then not access. Obviously then more money was spent to change the software to make it open to the people also charged with paying for this EU program. If making all these choices available is going to drive costs up, as in this case, the general public is not interested. they only need the basic hammer. My use of FireFox is to say I have a back-up ( spare hammer in the garage somewhere ), the only election should be from the public to decide if their current choice is satisfactory to their need.

Posted by Richard Griffin | Report as abusive

Microsoft’s attempts to settle the EC case are understandable given the eye-watering fines the Commission has been imposing lately on anyone caught breaking the rules. Arguably these fines are now well out of control and are starting to resemble criminal penalties – but without the legal protections you’d expect. The Commission is judge and jury when it comes to anti-trust proceedings – and its the shareholders who are punished, even if they had nothing to do with the unlawful conduct. No doubt Microsoft will be anxious to acheive a settlement if it possibly can.