CyberTech Rambler

February 24, 2009

Oh dear, that’s not going to be easy

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:27 pm

EurActiv.com and ComputerWorld UK is reporting that EC is exploring the possibility to force Microsoft to offer alternative browser as a remedy to the recent browser complaint investigation.

Initially, I thought it is going to be simple, just carry another browser. The problem is which browser and who chooses it. According to EurActiv.com, it can means computer equipment manufacturers choose the alternative browser “in agreement with Microsoft”. I find the “in agreement” part troubling as I do not think Microsoft should have any say in which browser manufacturers carry.  If this route is chosen it is certainly a “remedy” in all sense of the word, but smell like punishing manufacturers for Window’s misdeed. Just doesn’t sound right.

What really caught my attention is what I perceived to be the preferred option. Acorrding to EurActiv.com, it is

“[…] Microsoft will be obliged to design Windows in a way that allows users “to choose which competing web browser(s) instead of, or in addition to, Internet Explorer they want to install and which one they want to have as default,” [EC spokeperson] Todd explained. A possible solution could be to present Windows users with a so-called “ballot screen” from which they would choose their browser.”

Looks innocent? Perhaps not. When we talk about replacing browsers, we normally talk only about browsing the internet. At the bare minimum, that is what I had in mind until I read the sentence. What caught my eye is the word “instead of”. Let’s not forget Microsoft purposefully and against all IT wisedom, wired in Internet Explorer to provide functionalities to other parts of Windows. Does this means Microsoft must now rewrite Windows so that other browser can take over these functions as well? Furthermore, will other browsers want to take over these functions from IE?

While the comment can be read as ripping Internet Explorer’s out from other window components, I think it will be a step too far. After all, the complaint is about internet access using browser, not other functions that Windows ask IE to perform which does not involve the browsing role of IE.

I think a likely compromise is the “instead of” will be define to still allow components of IE to survive on the Windows computer, but restricts it to a non-browsing role.

In any case, it probably means reengineering of Windows architecture to what it should had been: clearly separate IE roles from that of other parts. The tie-in was a business decision overriding sound architectural judgement. I am sure part of the decision process envisaged the tie-in as being a defense for Windows Media Player and IE inclusion in Windows. Now that it is proven it is not accepted as a defense, its time to undo it properly.

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