Is Microsoft intentionally allowing Internet Explorer to die?
It’s not brand-spanking new as an idea, but that’s the suggestion (I’m guessing the URL; it’s not posted on the website yet) of Dana Blankenhorn, who writes a newsletter called A-Clue.com. In it he writes:
Microsoft is deliberately letting Internet Explorer lose the browser market to Mozilla’s Firefox. Microsoft won’t admit this publicly but it makes sense. The company hasn’t had a major upgrade to the program in years. It was relatively trivial for Mozilla, descended ultimately from Netscape, to match those features, even go slightly beyond them.
Blankenhorn says Microsoft is sick of fixing bugs for software that has no business model. Instead, he says, Microsoft is putting its money into applications like its Media Player. “There are business models that can be built around Media Player. You can sell content through that conduit. Until someone creates a business model around browser dominance Explorer is dead.”
An interesting view. No one is quite sure whether IE is actually dead or dominant. Lance Ulanoff says the former, John Dvorak the latter. In the forums one reader makes an interesting point: You can no longer download a full version of IE anymore from Microsoft’s website. This is presumably because of Microsoft’s decision a year ago not to issue further ‘standalone versions’ of IE after IE SP1.
Although things have changed a bit since then — security is now a priority, for example — I think this is probably where the truth lies. Microsoft may believe that developing a browser for its own sake is a waste of time, so long as you can control the other applications users work in. So if you’re using Microsoft Office, for example, better to keep the user inside one of those programs when they search the Internet by building the Research Pane, a window that has browser like features and functions but keeps the user inside a Microsoft product. If you do that, who needs a browser, or rather, who cares what the user does in a browser?
I’m guessing here, but if I was Microsoft, I wouldn’t care too much about numbers. Who needs to ensure everybody is using IE if all they’re doing is surfing for porn? Better to lock in the high-paying customers who might use online databases, for example, by keeping them in Office, or Outlook, or OneNote, or whatever. This is why I think you’re seeing more and more add-in toolbars for products like Outlook. The less people have to use a browser, the less steps they have to take to get information, and the more control you have over whether they go.
This may be one reason why Google is developing its own browser, if the rumours are true. Google relies on the browser more than any other company and presumably doesn’t want to find its business model made irrelevant for these in-program searches. Google needs eyeballs, and so needs to control the program and context of its users. Blankenhorn may well be right. The browser battle just may not be a battle Microsoft thinks is worth winning, because they see the war has moved elsewhere: to the in-program toolbar or research pane.