So what if you are a monopolist?

IE has become the defacto operating system environment for the Internet, like it or not. Just about every vendor that has come through lately to show me their latest and greatest software has something that works only on IE, only on Windows, and only on version 5.x or later. Why bother writing code for anything else? It is, after all, what most of us use on our desktops.

Well now, today’s news is that Microsoft is considered a European monopolist. Ironic, isn’t it, after all these years of investigation for locking up the browser market by bundling Internet Explorer with the Windows desktop, the Europeans nail Microsoft for being piggish with the Media Player? Doubly ironic, when you consider another operating system vendor that bundles its browser and media player software on its desktops, and nobody is going after it. Of course, I refer to Apple, with its Safari and iTunes applications. I guess having a two or three percent market share is the best way to keep the government lawyers from tying you up in legal knots.

The trouble with Apple is that the company still thinks it can go this alone and forget that there is a hungry world of partners and developers out there, anxious to license and embrace and extend the company’s work. As Chris Stone, the CTO of Novell told me not too long ago: “If Apple just could put Aqua in open source, Microsoft would be in deep trouble, and the game would be over. People would rush to develop apps using that software.”


Instead, we say, “So what?” Say the Europeans fine Microsoft a bazillion dollars. Microsoft cuts the check. Its corporate treasury makes back the dough in about 3.5 days’ worth of sales. Life goes on. Meanwhile, more and more ISVs write to Windows Media Player and IE. Eventually, the alternatives die on the vine, like an overexposed Netscape that has been through too many corporate acquisitions. Do you remember Netscape?

The problem is that the world court of opinion doesn’t evolve fast enough to keep up with technology. In the meantime, we are stuck with IE. And soon we will be stuck with Windows Media Player too, Europe notwithstanding.

You can read the entire essay here.

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