The Evil Bill Gates

Steve Bainbridge, Henry Farrell, and Brad DeLong all agree that Microsoft’s bundling arrangements are anti-competitive and bad for consumers.

The issue that brings the issue up again is, of course, the ruling by the EU that Microsoft’s bundling of Windows Media Player with its Windows operating system is somehow a restraint of trade. Considering that it comes free of charge, that’s an argument I find difficult to get excited about. Indeed, despite WMP being a perfectly fine resource for my needs in this area, I’ve still got RealPlayer, WinAmp, and QuickTime on my system because I needed them to play competing file types. Strangely, I was able to install these using Internet Explorer–which was bundled with Windows–after I searched for them with my Google toolbar–which competes against the inferior MSN Search but that Bill Gates has yet to stop me from using on his evil software. Indeed, the only obvious difference that having WMP pre-installed made was that, otherwise, I’d likely have had to download it, too.

Still, Brad makes an interesting argument. After extolling the good old days of Netscape-Microsoft rivalry,

And now? There is no progress in browsers at all. Why should anyone (besides crazed open sourcies) write a new browser? Why should Microsoft spend any money improving its browser? The point of giving Internet Explorer away for free is to protect Windows’s market, after all.

Maybe it’s because we’ve reached a satisfaction point? The early versions of both Netscape and Explorer were pretty weak. But I’m reasonably happy with IE as it is. Still, Brad’s point is hard to refute, since there’s no way to know what the result would be if other browsers were allowed to compete. Sure, Opera, Mozilla, Firebird, and others exist despite Gates’ plan for world domination. But there’s no doubt that there’s a certain inertia that comes with being the pre-installed browser.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. melvin toast says:

    I use safari and it’s like about a gazillion times faster than IE. Unfortunately microsoft has done a good job of adding non-standard javascript or whatever features to IE so that many web-sites now are non-standard and don’t quite work right with safari which is supposedly 1000% standard.

    I particularly like the bookmarks in safari. OTB comes up by hitting command-6 Yahoo is command-1, drudge is command-2 and puppy blender is command-3. I won’t give you the whole list but you get the idea.

  2. bryan says:

    Brad DeLong seems to be living in a shell. I haven’t used IE in over a year. I first switched to Safari – faster than IE and “easy on the eyes” then switched to Camino and finally Firefox. ALL OF THEM load faster than IE. I have only run across a handful of sites that require IE to run some crappy javascript. I’ve also pointed the Mozilla browsers to acquaintances, all of whom have switched. Granted, they are not dominating the market, but “competition” survives.

  3. John F says:

    I have IE, but only use it for some sites and purposes. I’d unload it completely, but I do like some of the web-integration of Explorer and the Desktop in Win98, for which it’s needed IIRC.

    As browser, Mozilla Firebid/Firefox is my routine choice now. Seems much faster, and tabbed browsing is great. Multiple windows, yechh.
    Also still use old Lynx now and again, out of sheer anti-‘rich media experience’ perversity 🙂

    If the product is good enough, people can still challenge Microsoft. Of course, the problem is to make money doing it.

  4. Ian S. says:

    Yup, tabbed browsing rules, which is probably why IE 6.5 (available only with purchase of whatever the next version of XP is, either “Longhorn” or “Reloaded”) is adding it. There is competition going on, but I don’t think anyone can successfully monetize the broswer now, including MS.

  5. Warning! Thread capture!

    All right, can anyone list a browser that has one particular feature which is the only reason I still use Netscape 6 for many things?

    It’s such a very minor point. In fact, most people would call it “trivial,” but I find it incredibly frustrating when it doesn’t happen.

    In old Netscape, you could right-click on a link, and while the button was still down, move to a pop-up menu item, then let go of the button and it would happen. My wrist has learn the exact number of millimeters to move to do a “Open in new window” or “Copy link location” or “Save link to disk.” I can even do them without really paying attention to the screen (once I’m on the link in the first place, of course).

    All the new browsers I’ve seen you have to right-click on a link, THEN RELEASE THE BUTTON to make the menu pop-up, then click the button again, and only then can you select an item.

    Yes, that sounds silly that anyone would care, but it drives Me absolutely bonkers when I click and move and get the “that’s a no-no” cursor.

    The “P” in “PC” is supposed to stand for something.

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