First off, let me say one thing before I initiate my disgust-laden rant: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarggggggggggggh. It may not be as relieving as actually screaming it out loud, but what the bleep’s going on with the EU?! Before I continue my mile-high rant, it may be interesting to sketch the background of this story, especially for those who haven’t been following the happenings leading up to this outright farce…
Microsoft vs. EU: A short history
The EU has developed a disliking to the Redmond-based software giant and has sued Microsoft over numerous of its anti-competitive strategies, mainly related to the bundling of Internet Explorer and Windows. Microsoft is also currently being held liable for several other anti-trust cases. The EU’s antipathy for Microsoft spiked after Microsoft reached a complete monopoly in the browser market. Because bundling is illegal in Europe, Microsoft was forced to pay a big fine to the EU some time ago and sell ‘N’ (nitwit?) editions of Windows. These N-versions are regular versions of Windows bereft of Windows Media Player — and never sold a single copy.
The whole issue flared up once more in recent events when Opera – a EU-based browser company sporting a pathetically low market-share – called on Microsoft for “being unfair” and stifling competition in the web browser market by its own browser with Windows.
Microsoft’s reaction to this was to remove Internet Explorer entirely from its upcoming operating system ‘Windows 7’. Initially, this would only be applied to EU-territory and consequentially, the Windows 7 E edition was born. This was a harsh measure, decidedly put in place to taunt the EU into dismissing the whole thing.
Shortly thereafter, the E-edition was yanked because — no kidding — it would cause unnecessary complications to Microsoft’s partners and would incur too much confusion to Microsoft’s European customers (said the EU).
Thus, in response, Opera “proposed” to introduce the “browser ballot screen” to Windows 7.
Ballot as in voting, yes. Microsoft has confirmed it would pursue this proposal to satisfy the EU’s demands:
Unless Opera acts up again, this will likely be the final design of the ballot screen. Microsoft specified that as many as eight browsers are to be displayed, sorted by market share. Yes Opera, you’re fifth down the list. Bummer.
In addition, Microsoft will retroactively be pushing this screen to Windows XP and Vista via Windows Update. A far reaching measure. Way too far if you ask me.
This is bad for the end user
While Opera argues that this is beneficial for the end user because it ensues the freedom of choice, I simply say it’s bull.
Opera, to its credit, got to market first with technology that is now mainstream in almost all browsers (tabs, etc.), but has failed miserably to grab an honorable spot in the browser market. Opera has been around far longer than most of the other browser makers, but still, after so many years pretty much no one would be caught dead using the darn thing. Firefox – for obvious enough reasons – made humongous strides in nipping away at IE’s market share. In a complimentary fashion both Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome rose above Opera without ghastly efforts.
This ‘bullshit screen’ will only confuse [normal] people since many won’t even know what a browser really is (it’s the Internet, Ma!). They just want to surf the web and go about their daily business. How does the average Joe even distinguish whether one browser is better than the other, anyway?
I just don’t think Microsoft should have caved to the likes of an insignificant player like Opera. After all, an operating system should come with a browser in order to get your hands on another one, right (in the light of the E-editions)? Besides, those who are techie enough are up to speed on browsers and will get Firefox if they are so inclined. Others shouldn’t be bothered and get the best browser the market has to offer novice users (read: Internet Explorer or Firefox, NOT Opera).
Anyhow, it’s not like Microsoft holds 90% of the market anymore. A product or service is only monopolistic if it’s the only viable thing to choose from. The mere fact that there are eight browser to display in the ballot screen shows anyone with an ounce of brains that there’s enough diversity to choose from in the browser space.
Up yours, Opera
Perhaps there’s something wrong with Opera itself. Perhaps? No, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with Opera: their product isn’t in the least compelling and nor is it very impressive. It’s competent – sure – but that’s where their story ends. Maybe they should try [positive] marketing..?
So Opera – in my opinion the most childish company of late – tries to gain market share by forcing Microsoft into a stranglehold by leveraging the EU’s preconceived aversion toward Microsoft. And they’re winning. Microsoft should have fought back on this one.
It’s easy to predict what will happen once Mr. End User sees this. He’ll pick one of the first two icons. And no one will go for Opera’s little icon, no matter how loud a raucous Opera causes. And it’ll be what Opera’s got coming to them. I’m already looking forward to it.
As much as I want to continue on, I’d better stop here. I got my point across 🙂 .
P.S.: Opera’s logo looks like a big zero, it really does.