If I was Microsoft…

…I would be demanding this to the EU right now:

Eufail

 I think the EU got things the other way around this time. I don't think the EU should force people to make a choice of browser, specially taking into account that the web browsers choice should not matter as long as they respect standards. If IE does not respect standards, Microsoft should be punished for not respecting them. Let's face it, most people will choose based on which icon they think is the prettier, and honestly, I don't expect them to have a well informed choice, I think they shouldn't have to choose, the choice shouldn't matter. Obviously, the browser vendors do not care much if this is not the right approach as the ones pushing hard will benefit from getting a higher market and becoming part of an oligopoly.

The misconception here is that the so called ballot only fixes a symptom of a deeper and more important problem. The real problem here is Microsoft's monopoly over the consumer computing market, and the root cause of that monopoly is their draconian deals with the OEMs. I don't even have the choice to buy a Windows-less laptop, let alone a Linux preloaded one.

The EU should act immediately on that situation, and it is outrageos that it allows it while at the same time, they put so much energy in deciding what applications goes inside of Microsoft's own product.

I'm against this, because I think it totally goes against good principles when it comes to designing a good user experience for a product and I somewhat illustrate that with the picture above. By the way, who chooses which browsers goes there? Based on which criteria? How can the EU citizens revise that process? 

I'm against the EU having the power to decide which apps or user workflow goes in a software product, I find it outrageous on Windows, I would find it outrageous in Mac OS X and I would find it outrageous in a Linux distribution.

IE embedded in every copy on Windows is not the problem a copy of Windows embedded with every single computer we buy is.
(well, and maybe IE's total lack of respect for web standards up to some extend too)

How about this ballot for a real change:

Ballot
 

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32 thoughts on “If I was Microsoft…

  1. Very much agreed with the first paragraph. I’ve suggested elsewhere that instead of confusing people with the ballot thing, the EU should be hitting MS with consumer protection laws. Seems to me that by not following modern standards, Microsoft are shipping a product not fit for it’s intended purpose.
    Suppose the EU were to legislate that all new computers or OS installs must come with a default web browser meeting some minimum level of standards compliance. Vendors would then be required to ship something other than IE as default, until Microsoft can improve enough to qualify.

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  2. My view is that there is not a problem. There might have been a problem back in the OS/2 days. Since then however, Windows has dominated not because of OEM deals, but because, frankly, Linux sucks. I’m a Linux user mind you, but I’d not wish it on my worst non-computer-literate enemy. Look, right now, my Ubuntu box. There’s a DVD icon on the desktop for a DVD that I ejected 3 days ago. It won’t go away. I know it’s some .desktop file floating around somewhere, or a stale reference of some sort in Nautilus. But it’s a bug which hasn’t happened on Windows in ages.
    That’s a minor one. So I’ll continue. If I run the Screen REsolution control panel, I’m asked if I want to run my Device’s Native Control application (nvidia-settings.) If I answer yes, the default answer, nvidia-settings opens. If I make a change in nvidia-settings, it fails to save it, because the app doesn’t have root and isn’t smart enough to sudo. If I answer No, the non-default answer, the xrandr native-gnome version opens, and actually works just fine. But what the heck is with the question, then?
    Linux desktops are riddled with these things. Windows isn’t, and hasn’t been since 2k. I remember similar stuff back in the Windows 3.1 days. I remember a minimal amount of it in 95 and 98. Mostly 95 and 98 just crashed a lot. They didn’t ask idiotic questions (except abort/retry/continue.)
    Actually, I can’t even find Screen Resolution anymore, because having 100 control icons in a giant scrolling pop up menu is idiotic. Weren’t we supposed to have a control-center thing at some point?
    If I open the Open or Save dialog boxes… I can’t manipulate files and folders. Nor can I quickly jump to Nautilus to do so even if that was the right option.
    I can’t browse computers on my local LAN by default. Yeah, I know sftp:// works. But that breaks in half the apps you might want to use it in, thanks to a fragmented VFS situation. ALso, I’d need to install openssh-server. And what’s supposed to do that for me? On windows, I can just network browse by default. And the firewall these days is smart enough to do the right thing.
    Again, I could go on for hours. I know we all could. It is these issues that prevent normal people from using LInux. It’s these issues which prevent vendors from caring about offering it to normal people. They’d just have to handle support calls from Mom’s and Dad’s who had no idea how to get something done.
    That is hte issue. The issue MIGHT have been OEM deals, 10+ years ago. It isn’t any longer. MS won the battle because they hired a few hundred thousand developers to actually make the OS desirable. And since they charge for their software, this was pretty obvious.
    So… while I would like to see Linux on the desktop, I’m not going to blame MS for it. The blame lines in me for not volunteering my time to fix the issues. Or the blame lies nowhere.
    I recently switched out most of my Linux servers for Windows servers for the SAME REASON. IIS is easy to use, and works. The bugs and vulns are gone. Exchange is super powerful, works, and the vulns are gone. And the price isn’t that bad. All of these Windows services run in Windows VM’s on top of Linux hosts… =) Yeah. Irony. Is it really just a matter of time before Hyper-V becomes so attractive that I give up on that front, too?
    There are so many downsides to the path this is taking, for me. I know the downsides to MS software… but frankly, I really want to spend time at home, with my family, or friends, than at work trying to figure out why Cyrus SASL, OpenLDAP, Heimdal Kerberos and Postfix aren’t playing nice together. =( I think this has to do with growing up and shifting priorities. Alas.

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  3. @Jerome:
    This post was a rant about EU’s approach to the problem and where the problem comes from. I don’t think Windows will has much less marketshare if things changed. I think Microsoft deserves its marketshare up to some extend.
    I just think the way they are keeping it should be illegal and the market rules should encourage new players to get into the game in equal conditions.
    And yes, I do agree, Linux distros are doing a pretty bad job in offering a compelling alternative.

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  4. I agree completely. Yes.
    The EU should be criticizing Microsoft’s market practices, not what software they bundle with Windows. This is the wrong solution, and and the result is more of an annoyance (and a dangerous precedent) than a true help for the industry.

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  5. @Alberto
    How are they keeping it? In my experience I keep giving it to them because their software is the best out there for the jobs at hand. I manage a small company (in the US, mind you)’s IT. I am obviously very very familiar with Linux. BUt still, Windows *is* cheaper for me. It’s about $600 per server, and the time saves is WAY greater than $600 vs Linux.
    The picture is the same on the desktop. Windows is way cheaper. Integrated Intranet search. Integrated authentication. Software to do desktop imaging and deployment. The network browsing stuff. These features save me time. My time is worth money. If you add it up, I save money using Windows. This is that TCO stuff they were talking about. It’s true.
    They aren’t keeping market share through lock-in. They’re keeping it because their products work better. I think if you start blaming them for writing software that works better than the next guy, you’re going down a very dark path.

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  6. Mind you, I want to use Linux on the desktop. I want to desperately. But until we step up, or somebody steps up for us, and provides these things, there’s no way.

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  7. First please remember, that the EU browser ballot is a fine fine imposed on Microsoft for ABUSE OF monopoly power. So as long as nobody misuses monopoly power, the EU will let you the free market do its job. No browser/OS/… ballots necessary.
    Second, different measures might be appropriate for different situations. An OS ballot like proposed by you, might be a lot more invasive (you need new apps, learn to administer your system from scratch,…) and thus not appropriate.

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  8. The google search example is a bit odd for me 🙂 Since google is one product, no need to tell about other stuffs. The browser chooser is not about that either; it’s about the integration of two products, windows (the OS) and Internet Explorer (the browser, which is a separated product and can be downloaded/installed separately too, that’s why EU has problem with it I think: it makes many users to think that you MUST user IE on Windows since it is “built-in”). Presenting a dialog by google.com to use another search engine is simply odd, and totally different issue, _however_ it can be considered to provide a dialog box by the browser on the first run after its installation to choose the default search engine. Also the problem with preinstalled windows: then not windows is the one which should provide a selector screen, it should be the task of the boot loader or something like that, hmm?

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  9. Hi Alberto,
    Your suggestion is great for the users! But not so create for the hardware OEM. Though it would be really nice all these options must be made available when ordering if you are to do business in EU!
    -Ghee

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  10. This browser choice is ripped out of context. You are using reverse argumentation with assumption it all starts with standards. I guess you were not around back in the days that Microsoft dominated those so called standards. The choice of browser had little to do with standards back then. It was all about the fact that “If you want to write an application on MS Windows you have to use the internal components provided by Internet Explorer”. Meaning there was a forced coupling with Internet Explorer giving Microsoft a dominating position in technology as well as the standards. This so called choice now is simply a decade to late.
    For the record I don’t like free software religious zealots either, however I find it worrisome this new generation has very little feeling with or knowledge about their history.

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  11. Jerome Halton: I fully agree that people should choose freely and that at this moment there are no viable competitors to Microsoft’s offering. But that is not to say that there couldn’t be viable competitors if Microsoft’s (presumed) lock-in was broken. That’s why governments should do everything in their power to break that lock-in so other products has a reasonable chance to get into the game on equal terms.
    That raises the question if a lock-in even exists. But I find it very hard to believe that only one single shop somewhere in Redmond – out of all companies in the entire world – possess the raw knowledge and skill to develop an operating system worthy of being installed on each and every of the +90% of all desktop computers Microsoft has claimed for several decades.

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  12. The ballot for google or the OS install doesn’t make sense (yet, i know you are trying to ‘provoke’ some discussion about the issue).
    1) Google ballot: you actively visit the Google page to do some search. You conscientiously choose this specific service (Default search engine in browser is a different matter).
    2) OS ballot: if you purchased some specific OS, why would you get alternative OSs? Teaching users about alternatives should be before they buy the product.
    I honestly like the idea of presenting alternative browsers. They no longer impose a browser in stealthy fashion. Users learn about alternatives and their curiosity could lead them to another browser. Since users/buyers ‘trust’ MS, at least its a name with some credibility, the browsers shown in the ballot gain some credibility to user’s eyes since its Microsoft that is presenting them with those alternatives.
    Better market/monopoly control should be applied and the requirement of complying with web standards should also apply, still, for each user of IE that MS lost, more they are pressured to play fair/nice and improve their browser to acceptable behavior.

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  13. Personally, I would be content with the ability to purchase any computer from any OEM without having to pay for any software I don’t want. In the monetary sense, that’s currently true (at least in the US) because of anti-bundling laws. However, from what I have heard, getting the refund is frequently quite expensive in terms of time and effort. I would rather avoid paying for software I don’t want in the first place.

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  14. Well i agree that EU should go after OEMs too but i disagree with you for the browsers’ selection.
    The problem is NOT if people can make a choice but primarily if they know that they do have an alternative choice and that’s the whole point.
    Also selecting search engine is not ridiculous or absurd but that is something that has to do with browser developers and at least ff, IE and chrome offer easy access to select different search engines.
    So i think that EU did a good job.
    Hopefully they will go after the big fish.

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  15. Look, I’m not saying you’re completely ignorant but you’re clearly missing the point here. The problem is that Microsoft has a monopoly in the OS market and therefore when it bundles something with its OS it basically sets the norm for 90% of its users.
    The EU is correct to ask them to unbundle it as the users should have a choice in the matter. Now this is especially true since the browser market is pretty seriously shifting and Firefox, Chrome and even Opera have serious chunks of the market and the EU is encouraging their growth compared to IE.
    Now that’s where your comparison in the screenshots misses its cue: neither other search engines nor other OS-es are preferred over the default. Google reigns supreme because it’s that good not because it’s the norm, and it’s the same with Windows.
    I’ve tried Bing, didn’t like it, too complicated, too much trying to be avant-garde.
    I’ve also tried Linux, in a lot of flavors, but it just misses so much of what I use daily that it’s not a good alternative…
    Which is my point, browsers are in a war, where the consumers can get better stuff if they’re given the choice. However, there’s no other easy to use and distinctly better google or windows so there’s no need to support those alternatives until they get good.

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  16. The EU were totally right to push for this… When IE was an irrelevant shit heap of a browser making web developers (myself included at the time) hate their existence on this green rock…
    However since IE8 it has become a bit of a nonsense…
    I expect the only reason it took this long is because of microsofts corporate antics though…

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  17. It saddens me when I see posts like this, because it shows more and more how little people study their history.
    The reason for the ruling to ask users about a choice in browsers has nothing to do with the fact that IE is the most popular browser. Nothing at all.
    So, comparing this to asking people which search engine they’d like to choose shows that there is a complete disconnect in logic going on, or a complete lack in understanding the history of this situation.
    The whole decision rests entirely on a ruling made years ago regarding the Windows operating system and computers. The ruling was that Microsoft Windows was a monopoly… not because it was the most popular operating system… but because it was practically the only one. Linux wasn’t around. The MacIntosh operating system wasn’t available for PCs. Any other rivals were a joke. Since Microsoft’s operating system was so dominant, all third-party software was written for Windows, which just exacerbated the problem. How can someone introduce a competing operating system when they ALSO have to convince every developer to also write their applications for this new operating system?
    It was a catch-22 and Microsoft was well positioned to dominate and lock out competition. So, a ruling was made. Microsoft would be left along *IF* they didn’t use Windows to pimp additional products. In other words, “OK, Microsoft. You can HAVE your Windows monopoly, but don’t USE that Windows monopoly to create MORE monopolies.” Microsoft agreed.
    Then came the Internet Explorer debacle. The browser war was heating up and Internet Explorer was in LAST PLACE. Microsoft didn’t bump IE into FIRST PLACE by making it BETTER. Instead, they just bundled it with Windows and made it the default and called it “The Internet”.
    This was Microsoft going back on their word. This was Microsoft ignoring the court order. So, the battle to fight back began. But Microsoft used its lawyers to drag this battle on for SO LONG that most people have lost sight regarding the real battle. Everyone thinks it is just because IE is #1 in usage. It is entirely a Windows thing and has nothing to do with browsers.
    So, comparing this to choosing a search engine (or nearly choosing anything else) misses that point entirely.
    To choose a different search engine involves nothing more than typing in another address into the browser. Now, if Google made an operating system for computers… made it the dominant operating system… killed off the competition so that 99% of the packaged software for PCs in stores was for their operating system… THEN, Google’s operating system monopoly would be called what it is… and they’d be told not to use their operating system to pimp additional products… and then if they broke these rules, they’d be forced to offer alternative products.
    What Microsoft is being forced to do is PUNISHMENT for rules they ALREADY BROKE years ago. It isn’t about “leveling the playing field”. If you believe that, then Microsoft’s lawyers have tricked you.

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  18. Microsoft had quite a monopoly on the “desktop pc”. They know perfectly well how to sustain monopolies using proprietary technologies. It is the story of microsoft office.
    If microsoft could do want they want, people would mindlessly use their browser, and they could effectively enforce their own “standards” on the web. Even with the strong competition today, the browsing experience is still very much tied to their cumbersome browser. If there was no competition, we would more or less sit in some proprietary AOL/microsoft internet. That threat was and is real, albeit nowadays mitigated by firefox, opera, chrome and mac os x. But microsoft would have extended their monopoly from the desktop pc to the www.
    I think it is very difficult to do it with “customer protection”. I mean, internet standards are no laws. And I think it is better if people develop new standards than if some international body would enforce them top down.
    To put it in another way: It is not the purpose of governments to say what we can buy and how that is ought to function. But the government should guarantee working markets, were customers can effectively choose. Sure, to choose is a burden sometimes, but overall it forces companies to compete with each other to the benefit of the users.
    I am perfectly happy with the EU decision. Microsoft can deal with competition. Without competition, there would be no IE 8 like this, no seperation of different users in windows, no power shell and so forth. (I still use linux 😉 It is all due to pressure from governments and the public and from competition in the marketplace. If there will be no anti trust laws in the internet age, we will see quality and interoperability degrade. Microsoft is a very selfish agency. If they can earn money by locking in people, that’s what they’ll do.

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  19. I think it should be fairly obvious even to non-lawyers (which includes me) that the other alternative offered (punishing Microsoft for their browser not following web standards) is completely unrealistic.
    Those standards are essentially just recommendations, no one is forced to conform to them. Obviously, it is a good idea for most participants in the marketplace to adhere to them, in order to enable information exchange. However, they are not binding, and they are far from being LAWS, so the EU would have no legal basis whatsoever to enforce their use, or punish someone for ignoring them.
    Regarding the search engine ballot, Google is actually only the default on Firefox (and Safari). Obviously, IE defaults to bing.com, although AFAIR from the last time I used Windows, IE does give you the explicit opportunity to change the default search engine the first time you run it.
    From what I know, having Google as the default choice is part of a deal between Google and the Mozilla Foundation, which actually accounts for a major chunk of their income. I.e. Google being the default search engine in Firefox is what pays for the development of pretty much the whole browser.

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  20. this is just plane stupid
    I think u made it clear you just don’t like MS
    But the 2 link should make ever point u got mute
    http://www.dell.com
    http://www.system76.com/
    both companies offer pre loaded linux laptop and desk top
    your argument isn’t at MS it is more towards PC manufacture and i thinking forcing manufacture to included Ftp client to download other OS’s is just dumb
    you can easily find preconfig linux unite from all the big computer manufacture sorry about luck
    your story drop my IQ by 5 point just reading

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  21. If MS is braking the rules, than you help(=subsidize) the competition. Lets grant money for the best 3 Linux distros. That will hurt ms and will “encourage” the other amateurs.

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