posted by Thom Holwerda on Sun 7th May 2006 19:17 UTC
IconSometimes, the smallest of things can amaze me. I'm a sucker for details, which probably lies at the base of my slightly obsessive-compulsive traits of keeping things organized, tidy, aligned, and neat. It's great to see some companies are suckers for details too. Unless the details just become too insignificant. Note: Sunday Eve Column. Short, this week, though.

This week, search giant Google made a lot of fuss about Internet Explorer 7's search field. You see, that search field defaulted to Microsoft's search engine, and not to Google's. Oh yes, that's really something to dust off your pitchforks for and go angry mobbing. If that isn't, what is? The fact that clicking a little arrow next to the search field gives you a drop-down menu where you can select different search engines apparently slipped Google's watchful eye.

Now, this is only a minor incident, part of a much bigger problem Microsoft has to overcome: because of Windows' 90-95% market share, anything Microsoft does will be seen as anti-competitive behaviour. Microsoft can't include program Xyz without Program Xyz Inc. going mental, squealing illegal bundling and what not.

From my tone, you probably already figured my position on this: exactly, I find this pointless and overdone bickering over nothing. I am of the opinion that as long as a certain piece of software can be removed from Windows, and thus replaced, Microsoft can include it. And even if it cannot be removed from the system (i.e. Internet Explorer), I have this big "so what" feeling. It's not like you cannot easily install another browser and not use Internet Explorer anymore (I do agree MS needs to open up Windows Update to other browsers).

Microsoft is in a really difficult position-- a position they may have maneuvered into because of their own actions-- but a difficult position nonetheless. When they announced they were going to include antivirus/spyware/malware applications in Windows Vista, many (including major antivirus companies) were quick to play the illegal bundling card. However, how surreal is it that Microsoft cannot improve their product and make their users safer by including these applications?

It is also wise to think twice about the intentions of companies such as Google and McAfee. Do they really care about choice? Do they play the illegal bundling card because they care about your ability to choose? Of course not. They care about themselves, and themselves alone. There is nothing at all noble about their actions.

But it's not only companies that are playing this game. Even governments, in the form of the European Union, want to join this card game. After much litigation, they forced Microsoft to sell a version of Windows XP without Windows Media Player, in order to create a level playing field for competitors such as Real. Did it work? Of course not. The new WMP-less version of Windows XP sold like a Playboy without nude pictures. Meanwhile, Neelie Kroes had spent a lot of tax money I supply her with on pointless litigation-- money that was much better spent on fighting poverty or hunger or whatever.

I highly suggest these companies try to beat Microsoft and its products by relying on their own merits, instead of relying on a Dutch woman with a shady past. Doesn't a football victory made by playing better than the competing team feel a lot better than winning by getting a false penalty?

--Thom Holwerda

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