Although for many it might be a model worth following, Microsoft has a longstanding tradition of not only discouraging competition, but trying to eliminate it by any means possible. That includes dirty, unorthodox, and sometimes even illegal moves through which they’ve managed to monopolize the desktop operating system market, and, for a long while back in the ‘90s and early ‘2000s, the browser market.
Internet Explorer was practically the only browsing solution users could possibly “choose” until 2004, when Mozilla launched Firefox. Not only was the browsing market situation unhealthy and unnatural, but as history has proven, it also delayed some technological advancements.
While we all thought that the browser monopolies were a thing of the past, Microsoft is apparently trying to once again eliminate competition by all means, including dirty moves. At least that’s what Mozilla officials are claiming, saying that Microsoft will prohibit Firefox from upcoming Windows 8 computers and tablets using ARM processors.
“They’re trying to make a new version of their operating system which denies their users choice, competition, and innovation.” said Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s general counsel, in a recent blog post, adding that “making IE the only browser on that platform is a complete return to the digital dark ages when there was only one browser on the Windows platform.”
As most of you might know, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been on a downward slope for the past few years, but is still number one in worldwide usage, beating both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, according to market share reports.
However, recent estimates have shown that IE is no longer the most used browser in many important countries, including the United States. Furthermore, global desktop stats from StatCounter show that Internet Explorer has a mere 3% lead over Chrome in April 2012 (34% – 31%), while Firefox is itself pretty close, with a 10% handicap against Microsoft’s browser. It’s no wonder therefore that Microsoft is doing its best to prevent competition from taking the lead in such a high stakes battle.
Getting back to the issue at hand, we should mention that Microsoft has declined to respond to Harvey Anderson’s claims, which means that we might not know the whole truth on the matter as both sides see it. Also, Anderson admits that Microsoft might not end up forbidding the use of other browsers besides IE on their future machines and that they “could have subsequent releases that allow third-party browsers.”
If, however, Microsoft will choose to fight this battle in such an “unmanly” fashion, Mozilla will surely not refuse the fight. “Sometimes they need some pressure. If it turns out to be legal pressure, that could be the thing.” said Harvey Anderson, suggesting that his company is not afraid of suing Microsoft for abusive conduct.
Microsoft’s Windows 8 could be released as soon as next fall, which is probably when we’ll know for sure if ARM-based PCs and tablets running the new OS will in fact only support Internet Explorer. It will also be interesting to see Google’s reaction to this whole shenanigan, as Google's Chrome browser is the runner-up with the most chances to dethrone Internet Explorer.
Could we be heading towards a long legal war between Microsoft, on one side, and Mozilla and Google, on the other? If so, do you think that Microsoft has any chance of leaving unscathed?