Tag Archives: Explorer

Microsoft Rush Out New Toolbar

Microsoft’s MSN have gone the way of Google and launched a toolbar that also blocks pop-ups.

To explain the business behind this business, read the excellent Microsoft Monitor. It points out that Google’s toolbar does all this already, and is at the same time diverting searches away from Microsoft. Given that a ‘sizeable chunk’ of Microsoft’s ad revenue comes from paid searches, this hurts. Hence the toolbar, which, like Internet Explorer’s default search engine (and most other Microsoft products), will take you to MSN. As Microsoft Watch points out, this is the old MSN search engine, not their spanking new one.

Then there’s the pop-up blocker. Microsoft Monitor reckon that “40 percent of consumers say they find traditional pop-up ads to be the most annoying forms of on online advertising”. Internet Explorer doesn’t block ads, and won’t until the release of a Windows XP Service Pack (a kind of add-on, pulling together all the updates since the last Service Pack) later this year. It’s clear Microsoft can’t wait that long, hence the toolbar.

News: Browsers Hit A Legal Minefield

 From the This Could Change Everything Or Mean Nothing Dept come reports that Microsoft (and presumably others) may have to redesign their web browsers after a US court found that Internet Explorer infringes another company’s software patent. The BBC reports that the World Wide Web Consortium, the body responsible for web standards, also released a statement saying that Microsoft “will very soon be making changes to its Internet Explorer browser software in response to this ruling.” The patent concerned describes a way of “automatically invoking [an] external application” and “providing interaction and display of embedded objects” inside a “hypermedia document”.
 
It’s not easy to figure out what happens next. Like all software patents, the BBC says, it is written in a complex legalistic style which makes it hard to determine just what it covers. However there is a general consensus within the web community that it would include clicking on a link to load a Flash movie or a video player, controlling an external application through a web interface and downloading and running programs inside a web page.
This means that core web technologies, including plugins for multimedia websites, Java applets, and even Microsoft’s own ActiveX controls, will be affected. Ouch.

Software: More Search Options

 Talking of Outlook functionality, 80-20 have just come out with a new version of Retriever, a great search engine that integrates with Outlook (but also works from Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, System Tray and Task Bar.)
 
 
Definitely worth a look. Also, the folks at IdeaLab have come up with a new beta version of their search product X1, which they seem pretty excited about. If you’re still looking for the perfect way to find stuff on your hard drive, give it a shot. There’s a free version which may or may not come with Adware; I haven’t checked what their policy is on this recently.
 
 

Loose Wire: Actually Bill, No,

Loose Wire: Actually Bill, No, I Can’t
By Jeremy Wagstaff

12/13/2001 Far Eastern Economic Review (Copyright (c) 2001, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

I’m frankly flabbergasted that the Microsoft antitrust trial in the United States is reaching such an ignominious end. But am I alone in my righteous indignation?
I won’t bore you with the details, but the Redmond giant is edging close to victory, via a settlement that contains so much wiggle room you could drive a truck through it. True, it faces opposition from nine U.S. states to its settlement with the Justice Department, and a host of other hearings and investigations. But chances are Microsoft will win out. And we users won’t.

What frosts my shorts up is that for all the teams of lawyers, miles of opinion, submissions and judgments there’s rarely been any mention of what I think is the main problem with Microsoft’s dominance of the software market: that users end up being worse off the more Microsoft products they use. We face the growing probability that if something goes wrong with one Microsoft product, the whole caboodle will come tumbling down with it.
Now this might sound slightly mad, but bear with me. The legal arguments have largely revolved around whether Microsoft has harmed consumer choice by what is called bundling, or tying, its products together. The main focus has been Internet Explorer, which Microsoft stands accused of intentionally binding into its Windows operating system to undermine rival browsers.

The problem is that this debate has, since its original airing in 1998, become largely irrelevant. Internet Explorer now dominates the marketplace — AOL Inc.’s once great Netscape Navigator now looks and feels like trying to drive a car with a fish for a steering wheel. It’s hard to imagine your average computer user waking up one morning and saying: “Hmm! I think I’ll remove IE and install BloggsBrowser today!” without thinking seriously about the likely consequences. (Don’t believe me? Try using Microsoft Money or Encarta without IE running properly. It gets ugly.)

What’s more, Microsoft increasingly dominates word-processing, spreadsheet, e-mail, contact-management, encyclopaedia and personal-finance software, blending so much of the code that your computer resembles less a multifunctional powerhouse than a tower of kiddies’ bricks. Pull out one and the whole thing comes crashing down.

Take what happened to me last week. When my laptop, running Windows 98, wouldn’t close down properly, I had to turn it off myself. When I turned it back on, I was faced with a scary message informing me my registry — the directory that stores settings for all the programs loaded onto the computer — had been corrupted and replaced with a previous version that was intact.

Now, this kind of thing shouldn’t be a problem. After all, it sounded as if my computer was in good hands. Wrong. The recovered version of the registry was apparently from a different era, blissfully unaware of the printers and other bits and bobs I had installed since the invention of the cotton jenny. Suddenly, anything with Microsoft’s name in it somewhere stopped working. Outlook — the e-mail and contact-management program — had mislaid all my personal settings and blithely assumed I was a new user. Microsoft Word, meanwhile, wouldn’t even leave the garage. Increasingly frustrated, I reloaded both Office and, when that didn’t really help, Windows itself. The whole experience has taken years off my life and I’ve started drinking again.

This is the direct consequence, in my view, of this bundling thing (the computer problem, not the drinking). All my other non-Microsoft programs worked fine despite the mayhem going on around them, making me grateful I hadn’t removed a simple old e-mail program I’d ditched for the bright lights of Outlook.

Where does this leave us? Well, I’d recommend doing two things. First, limit your exposure to bundled products by trying out alternatives, like Eudora, The Bat! or Pegasus.

Secondly, I’d suggest you submit your own comments to the court (microsoft.atr@usdoj.gov or www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/ms-settle.htm) — something you’re entitled to do as a member of the public under a piece of antitrust legislation called the Tunney Act. Preferably using words like “flabbergasted” a lot.

Write to me at jeremy.wagstaff@feer.com

Column: Microsoft antitrust

Loose Wire: Actually Bill, No, I Can’t
 
By Jeremy Wagstaff , from the 13 December 2001 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review, (c) 2001, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
 
I’m frankly flabbergasted that the Microsoft antitrust trial in the United States is reaching such an ignominious end. But am I alone in my righteous indignation?

I won’t bore you with the details, but the Redmond giant is edging close to victory, via a settlement that contains so much wiggle room you could drive a truck through it. True, it faces opposition from nine U.S. states to its settlement with the Justice Department, and a host of other hearings and investigations. But chances are Microsoft will win out. And we users won’t.

What frosts my shorts up is that for all the teams of lawyers, miles of opinion, submissions and judgments there’s rarely been any mention of what I think is the main problem with Microsoft’s dominance of the software market: that users end up being worse off the more Microsoft products they use. We face the growing probability that if something goes wrong with one Microsoft product, the whole caboodle will come tumbling down with it.

Now this might sound slightly mad, but bear with me. The legal arguments have largely revolved around whether Microsoft has harmed consumer choice by what is called bundling, or tying, its products together. The main focus has been Internet Explorer, which Microsoft stands accused of intentionally binding into its Windows operating system to undermine rival browsers.

The problem is that this debate has, since its original airing in 1998, become largely irrelevant. Internet Explorer now dominates the marketplace — AOL Inc.’s once great Netscape Navigator now looks and feels like trying to drive a car with a fish for a steering wheel. It’s hard to imagine your average computer user waking up one morning and saying: “Hmm! I think I’ll remove IE and install BloggsBrowser today!” without thinking seriously about the likely consequences. (Don’t believe me? Try using Microsoft Money or Encarta without IE running properly. It gets ugly.)

What’s more, Microsoft increasingly dominates word-processing, spreadsheet, e-mail, contact-management, encyclopaedia and personal-finance software, blending so much of the code that your computer resembles less a multifunctional powerhouse than a tower of kiddies’ bricks. Pull out one and the whole thing comes crashing down.

Take what happened to me last week. When my laptop, running Windows 98, wouldn’t close down properly, I had to turn it off myself. When I turned it back on, I was faced with a scary message informing me my registry — the directory that stores settings for all the programs loaded onto the computer — had been corrupted and replaced with a previous version that was intact.

Now, this kind of thing shouldn’t be a problem. After all, it sounded as if my computer was in good hands. Wrong. The recovered version of the registry was apparently from a different era, blissfully unaware of the printers and other bits and bobs I had installed since the invention of the cotton jenny. Suddenly, anything with Microsoft’s name in it somewhere stopped working. Outlook — the e-mail and contact-management program — had mislaid all my personal settings and blithely assumed I was a new user. Microsoft Word, meanwhile, wouldn’t even leave the garage. Increasingly frustrated, I reloaded both Office and, when that didn’t really help, Windows itself. The whole experience has taken years off my life and I’ve started drinking again.

This is the direct consequence, in my view, of this bundling thing (the computer problem, not the drinking). All my other non-Microsoft programs worked fine despite the mayhem going on around them, making me grateful I hadn’t removed a simple old e-mail program I’d ditched for the bright lights of Outlook.

Where does this leave us? Well, I’d recommend doing two things. First, limit your exposure to bundled products by trying out alternatives, like Eudora, The Bat! or Pegasus.

Secondly, I’d suggest you submit your own comments to the court  — something you’re entitled to do as a member of the public under a piece of antitrust legislation called the Tunney Act. Preferably using words like “flabbergasted” a lot.