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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