John Dvorak - PC Magazine
I think it can now be safely said, in hindsight, that Microsoft's
entry into the browser business and its subsequent linking of the
browser into the Windows operating system looks to be the worst
decision-and perhaps the biggest, most costly gaffe-the company ever
made. I call it the Great Microsoft Blunder.
It looks like a whopper that keeps whacking the company. The most
recent bash came from the Eolas v. Microsoft patent suit over aspects
of the ActiveX usage in Internet Explorer. Microsoft lost and was
slapped with a $521 million settlement.
If the problem is not weird legal cases against the company, then it's
the incredible losses in productivity at the company from the
never-ending battle against spyware, viruses, and other security
problems. All the work that has to go into keeping the browser afloat
is time that could have been better spent on making Vista work as
All of Microsoft's Internet-era public-relations and legal problems
(in some way or another) stem from Internet Explorer. If you were to
put together a comprehensive profit-and-loss statement for IE, there
would be a zero in the profits column and billions in the losses
The joke of it is that Microsoft is still working on this dead
albatross and is apparently ready to roll out a new version, since
most of the smart money has been fleeing to Firefox or Opera. This
means new rounds of patches and lost money. Continue reading...
This fiasco and the great Microsoft Blunder began when Marc
Andreessen, then of Netscape, made some silly, off-handed remark about
how the browser would become the next platform for applications and
suggested, in so many words, that Microsoft would be
destroyed. Instead of the boys at Microsoft laughing out loud and then
ignoring this remark, they started scrambling around like ants on a
The next thing you know, Microsoft went Internet slaphappy. Besides
cobbling together a browser from any code it could license, it rolled
out all sorts of Internet magazines and various Internet-centric ideas
to the point where it was obvious to anyone watching that the company
itself was believing all the hype coming from outside.
The main piece of propaganda among the Internet-centric ideas was that
the personal computer is dead. "There'll be no computers in a few
short years, as everything will be embedded and become appliances,"
said all the experts.
This appliance malarkey comes and goes, but always goes. We still have
computers, we still need operating systems, and we still need
Microsoft Office. Yes, there are alternatives to everything, but the
gold standards for all these basics make most of the money, no matter
what anyone idealizes to the contrary.
But Microsoft buys the fear. It must have some of the lowest corporate
self-esteem for any dominant company in the history of modern
business. The company is like the panicky old woman wondering how she
lost a penny in her purse while giving exact change in the express
line at the grocery store. Hey lady, you are holding things up!
So what can Microsoft do about its dilemma? First, it needs to face
the fact that this entire preoccupation with the browser business is
bad for the company and bad for the user. Microsoft should pull the
browser out of the OS and discontinue all IE development
immediately. It should then bless the Mozilla.org folks with a cash
endowment and take an investment stake in Opera, to influence the
future direction of browser technology from the outside in. Then,
Microsoft can worry about security issues that are OS-only in nature,
rather than problems compounded by Internet Explorer.
Of this I can assure you. People will not stop buying Microsoft
Windows if there is no built-in browser. Opera and/or Firefox can be
bundled with the OS as a courtesy, and all the defaults can lead to
Microsoft.com if need be.
Of course we already know that this will never happen, since Microsoft
is a creature of habit. So it will forever be plagued by its greatest
blunder ever. Have fun, boys.
Copyright 2006 Ziff Davis Inc.
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