Opera/Microsoft antitrust case drama

It seems Microsoft are in the dock again. This time it’s the turn of Norwegian browser producer Opera, to pursue the software giant. The case is an anti trust allegation, claiming that Microsoft are ‘abusing their powers, by only shipping copies of their operating system Windows, with only their own “Internet Explorer 8.0” browser and none of their competitors’.

The Chief technology officer for Opera, is quoted as having said “Microsoft is ignoring web standards and should use its position to promote competition, among browser”. Meanwhile Mozilla, producers of the popular “Firefox” browser, claimed that the “browser wars are over”, at this years South by South West festival in Texas.

What Mozilla meant by ‘the end of the browser wars’ is that the main browser manufacturers are now working much more closely  together on a common set of standards, to ensure that all browsers act and display information is a uniform way. There have been some minor disputes, one being Microsoft going off and developing their own security systems, but in in their defense, they have made the code available for other vendors to utilize. Internet security is something that most people agree can not wait for agreements to be made, at the expense of leaving clients vulnerable and contrary to Opera’s claim, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8.0 does actually support internet standards.  By default Internet Explorer 8.0  has standards support turned on for the internet , but the  intranets, claiming that this is so that developers can continue to use internet explorer 7.0 while they upgrade their systems.

Microsoft’s stance on the shipping of browsers has been that Explorer and by extension  Internet Explorer form an integral part of the operating system and should be shipped with windows.

In the latest bid to appease the European Courts, Microsoft offered to go back on previous stance, that Explorer and by extraction Internet Explorer form an integral part of the operating system and should be shipped with windows. Offering to ship a version of their operating system for Europe (to be known as version e) without any browser at all.
After discussions with Opera, the courts dismissed this suggestion after a single day, saying “the move would not further its goal of promoting browsers that compete with Internet Explorer.”

The only hearing scheduled in the case, was set for early June, but has been cancelled after Microsoft complained that many European antitrust officials who could attend the hearing as observers were unable to do so because of a competing conference in Switzerland. The commission is under no timetable to release its ruling in the browser case, but in the past, it has publicized crucial decisions, fines and sanctions before leaving for its summer break in late July.

The truth is, that Apple also ship their operating system with only Safari, their own browser and yet Opera have not sued them. In fact its doubtful that it is Microsoft they should be chasing, as Microsoft do not install or ship most of the Windows products that go out, hardware manufacturers do. Companies like Dell, IBM, HP, ASUS often add their own utility software,  anti virus products and other extras, I’m sure that if Opera where truly demanded by end users, then they would be more than happy to bundle them with their products.

The idea of a modern operating system not coming with a browser at all is quite ridiculous, having to get installers on a cd or memory device and install one before connecting to the internet would make registration, licensing ad upgrade a far more arduous task.  Operating systems coming with a choice of  3 or 4 browsers, would also have implications to large corporate IT systems, supporting and keeping on top updates and security control for multiple browsers would be a very large undertaking in many cases.

In some ways I believe it is Opera’s own best interest to have users download their browsers from the internet if they want it, firstly this keeps them competitive as they have to make truly better browsers, and secondly because it gives them much needed information on who is using their browser.

Regardless of what the courts decide, remaining the default browser will be a lot harder than just being put on the installation disk. Opera,  will still have its work cut out, as it does have its downsides, there is a general lack of support for all important plug-ins and a large number of sites that don’t support it.

I myself am a big fan of Opera, and have been using it as my browser of choice  of late, but I do also use Explorer, Chrome, Flock and Safari on a daily basis, each of which has it own benefits.

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Opera/Microsoft antitrust case drama

The culture of free!

The world of IT is a relatively fast moving one. New trends and technology come thick and fast, and with every new trend or technology there follows a host of new terms, phrases, acronyms, and of buzz words.
One term that I have heard cropping up more and more lately, is “the culture of free”. It’s fairly easy to guess what this term might relates to, but why has it started to crop up now, and is a ‘culture of free’ a good thing, or could it have a downside?
While today’s internet generation may not remember, there was a time when you had to purchase browser software. Then one day someone came up with the idea of giving it away free, and a culture was born, and it didn’t stop at software, web based services (file sharing, storage, instant messaging, email and social networks) soon followed suit, and more recently data owner’s have started to share their data freely too.
There is even a ‘Culture of Free movement’, founded by Lawrence Lessig (a lecturer at Stanford University and author of ‘Free Culture’. The movement which is often associated with Creative Commons, promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works, using the Internet as well as other media. Lessig and his followers object to overly restrictive copyright laws, often completely rejecting the concepts of copyright and intellectual property altogether, claiming it creates a “permission culture”. Others, most prominently Andrew Keen, (an academic, author and technologist) criticizes the ‘Free Culture’ ideals, referring to them instead as the ‘Cult of the Amateur’.
When you think about it, the internet is fundamentally built on a culture of free, with all of its knowledge freely available, but blogger Leo Babauta, points out – we must distinguish between “free” as in you don’t have to pay for it, and “free” as in you are free to distribute and use the information.
So why would bloggers, photographers, film makers, citizen journalism, musicians, illustrators or authors, use things like creative commons licensing to distribute their work freely? Well they’re working on the premise that reaching a larger audience may bring returns in other ways, whether its through donations, public speaking engagements, lucrative commissioned work or just improving their profile.
Can there really be a downside to free? After all everybody likes getting something for nothing and the people giving it away seem happy. Well I guess the answer to that depends on your point of view. Some would argue that when things are given away freely it erodes their value and others would argue that the ‘culture of free’ is eroding the very skills and standards that we have spend decades building up. buzzword

The culture of free!