Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 26th Jan 2009 11:56 UTC
Internet & Networking Earlier this month, news got out that the European Commission is charging Microsoft with unlawful competition regarding its bundling of the Internet Explorer web bowser with Windows. At the time, information was scarce, but thanks to Microsoft's quarterly filing at the Securities and Exchange Commission. we now have a little more insight into what the EU might force Microsoft to do.
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garyedwards
Member since:
2009-01-16

I'm not sure i understand the concept of separating the MSIE browser from the Windows OS, or forcing OEM's to drop browsers altogether. It's kind of a 1995 approach to a 2009 situation. I would be more in favor of forcing Microsoft to comply with Open Web Standards and proposals that the EU determines would be best going forward. The browser is just a bridge between end users and the Web. It's what crosses that bridge that Microsoft seeks to control. Control the containers of information (formats, protocols and interfaces) and you own whatever crosses the bridge.

Microsoft would of course protest that this would limit innovation and result in Windows-MSOffice bound consumers being left behind. Not true, as long as Microsoft is also allowed to introduce innovative enhancements as Open Web Standards proposals. This is the WebKit model adopted by the WebKit community (Includes Apple, Google, Adobe, Nokia, Palm, and RiMM among many others).

The WebKit approach to Open Web Standards is to correctly implement the most advanced versions of W3C, ISO-IETF, and Ecma recommendations, but not be held back by the glacial pace of the consortia (pay to play) process. WebKit innovations are submitted back to the standards consortia on the fly, as proper proposals ready for consideration. Most important though, the WebKit community doesn't wait. Which is okay since WebKit is an open source community flush with the reality that the Open Web is the only way forward.

In fact, the EU would benefit their interoperability desires greatly by joining the WebKit open source community and contributing directly to this incredible push of the Open Web envelope. The first and most important contribution being the demand that vendor products sold to EU governments fully support and implement both Open Web standards and, the WebKit innovative enhancements.

Some will read this and wonder why WebKit and not Mozilla Firefox?

No doubt that Firefox and the Mozilla open source community are the great defenders of the Open Web. I'm afraid to even think about where the Open Web would be without them. By way of comparison, when it comes to the Open Web, the standards consortia and orgs are secondary players to the Mozilla main event. The issue however is that of pushing the Open Web forward with innovative enhancements and break through inventions without compromising global and public facing interoperability.

The importance of rapidly advancing smartphone and netbook devices at the edge of the Open Web is complimented by convergence into the cloud computing model at the core. This is clearly WebKit territory! WebKit owns the edge of the Open Web, yet is becoming increasingly important to architectural changes resonant at the core.
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We all know the impact the WebKit layout/rendering engine and document model has had with smartphones and PDA's. Buyt that's only a fraction of the WebKit story. In the RiA arena (Rich Internet Applications), WebKit is the Open Web runtime engine and developer target; destined and determined to compete with both the Adobe AiR-Flex-Flash RiA model, and, Microsoft's XAML-Silverlight-WPF-.NET proprietary RiA.

At the heart of the battle for the future of the Open Web is the HTML document model. WebKit is clearly pushing the envelope here with a very advanced visual document model comprised of edge HTML, CSS, SVG, JavaScript and DOM techniques. Tilt and touch an iPhone, wallow for a moment in the dance of the sugarplum documents, and you'll understand that this isn't your grandfathers Open Web. (Anti-competitive Apple patent barriers and claims not withstanding - but that's an issue that should also be on the EU's plate).

Adobe AiR also implements the WebKit layout engine, but falls behind when it comes to the WebKit visual document model. For one thing, they use SWF instead of SVG. The larger Open Web issue though is that Flash based RiA is at least 80% application and perhaps only 20% document model. Visual documents are far more portable an interface into interactive information aggregations and systems, and far closer to end user sovereignty than an application. The WebKit approach is just the opposite; 80% visual document and 20% application, with advanced libraries and browser embedded JavaScript engines carrying an ever increasing load.

Having said that, Adobe is hardly a threat to the future of the Open Web. Especially since the desktop oriented Flash application model can't (as yet) run with the tilt, touch and flow demanded by visual edge devices. No, the real threat to the Open Web comes from Microsoft WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation layer) and the plethora of proprietary but Web ready formats, protocols and interfaces implemented.

WPF is a fully fleshed family of very advanced but very proprietary alternatives to Open Web formats, protocols and interfaces. The XAML "fixed/flow" document model combines with other WPF technologies such as Silverlight, XPS, LINQ, Smart Tags, and the SharePoint Collaboration Protocol (to name but a few), is a very advanced alternative to Open Web HTML, XHTML, CSS, SVG, RDF, RDFa, SPARQL, PDF, JavaScript, XMPP, and WebDav.

It seems to me that the Microsoft plan going forward is to offer users a choice between half-way implemented and aging Open Web standards, and/or, very rich and feature filled WPF alternatives that are fully integrated into a converged platform of Microsoft desktops, servers and devices. The convergence of these Microsoft platforms centers around the MS WebStack-Cloud-RiA model that features a Exchange-SharePoint-SQL Server juggernaut at the core. With near 100% dominance of business desktop productivity systems, Microsoft can control and direct the great transition of these business systems and processes to a Web centric core, using application and platform component level integration of WPF formats, protocols and interfaces. If users opt for conversion to Open Web alternatives, (which they can), business processes will break. The great transition will be one of costly and disruptive "rip and replace" as opposed to the gradual "re-purposing" promised by integrated but proprietary Microsoft technologies.

It seems to me that Microsoft has figured out an anti-trust strategy based on strategic "dualism". The way this works is that their applications offer a Hobbsian choice for embracing and engaging extraordinary Web productivity advantages; choose to convert output to crippled and aging Web standards, and break legacy systems; or, stay "in-process" and incorporate at the Microsoft application layer Web universal connectivity, advanced messaging and communications, and interactive collaborative computing. Not much of a choice, but there it is. Compliance with open standards, the Microsoft way.

Microsoft further compliments this application duality by joining the many open standards initiatives. Here they use well reasoned arguments for backwards compatibility that trumps demands for rapi9d and innovative advances. In this way, Microsoft succeeds in effectively stalling and dumbing down work that competitors and OSS communities need if they are to compete against the monopolists WebStack-Cloud-RiA proprietary initiatives.

This is the challenge the EU faces.

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Maybe the EU can right the marketplace and restore competition by identifying all proprietary formats, protocols and interfaces used by Microsoft in an anti-competitive way; then issue a directive to either replace these locks with open standard alternatives, or pay a monthly anti-competitive reimbursement penalty until such time as the end user effectively replaces these systems.

This approach is similar to the "WiNE solution" put forward to Judge Jackson as part of the USA anti-trust remedy. Judge Jackson favored a break up of Microsoft into two divisions; Operating systems and other businesses. Few believed this was enforceable, with many citing the infamous "Chinese Wall" claims made by Chairman Bill to previo

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