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.