Tuesday, January 20, 2009

EU vs. Microsoft

The European Union has decided to take on software giant, Microsoft, yet again. Last year, they fined Microsoft $1.4 billion for unfair competition - one of the largest fines ever, at the time - for failing to comply to a 2004 finding of the same. Now, the EU claims Microsoft is harming fair competition by bundling its Explorer Web browser with the Windows operating system.

While you can install and use third-party browsers, there is no way to uninstall Internet Explorer from any Windows OS; while you can technically remove the software, it will completely hose your system at some point (if not immediately), thanks to Windows Updates, innumerable registry keys, and other systematic issues; Internet Explorer is integrally tied to the Windows OS.

Microsoft has come under fire for this in the past, but has yet to correct the problem. Further, planned upgrades to the OS will see Web utilities, programs, and functions becoming even more intrinsic to the operating system, as Windows moves to a "cloud"-based platform.

Truthfully, this is a serious issue which needs to be settled. It would be best if Microsoft developed a single Explorer for everything - an Explorer program capable of accessing both the Web and the PC without forcing the user to "swap-out" between programs to explore directories (Windows Explorer) and Web sites (Internet Explorer). However, this would require Microsoft truly making IE a fundamental part of the entire OS. I, for one, would be all for that, though I understand how it could be seen as an anti-trust move.

The only real solution to this issue is for Microsoft to bite the bullet and make their long-standing "proprietary" software (Windows) more open-source and/or - specifically - allow users to completely untie IE from the Windows OS.

You can access your PC's file structure through Firefox, for example (type "C:\" - without quotes - in the navigation bar to see your root directory), so if you would prefer to use FireFox as your exploring program, you should not be forced to keep IE on your system. It sucks resources on all levels: it takes up disk space, it requires resources at bootstrap, and it is updated specifically (from time to time) through Windows Update.

If I could, I would remove both IE and Windows Explorer from my Vista system (Windows Explorer in Vista is possibly the worst, slowest, most bloated... it crashes at least once every two uses! - that's 50% of the time!!!) and use FF as my entire exploring system. In fact, I am just now starting to familiarize myself with Firefox as my internal (PC) browser - and am truly loving it! I can Favorite/Bookmark oft-used and -accessed directories for a quick return, open/launch programs with a single click, and so on. And by opening my side panel and adjusting the way my History is sorted, I have my directory tree without all the clutter of directories I do not wish to access!

It makes far more sense for me to use my browser as my entire GUI, eliminating the need for such things as free-standing IM programs, the Aero sidebar, and more - with add-ons and plug-ins, as well as the use of my sidewindow and tabs, I can access literally everything I need on my computer, as well as across the Web, from inside my browser. This could be a serious threat to Microsoft, as its newer OS (Vista, Win7) require more and more resources to achieve the same things one could technically do more efficiently with far less.

I applaud the EU - which insists Microsoft has diversified enormously in recent years and is no longer solely-dependent on its Windows OS and software for revenue - in taking-on the giant, but we tech-nerds need to get busy learning how to work without these unnecessary programs, so we can teach others who wish to learn the same.

And that is where the EU is going to face steep criticism, as at least 75%+ of current computer users are not computer enthusiasts; most people could care less about all of this stuff - they just want to be able to "get online" and do what they need to do.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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