For years, the European Union has had a target on Microsoft. The governmental body has taken the software giant to task on several issues surrounding both its software and Web endeavors.
But nowhere is the impact of all those efforts so dramatically felt than in the EU's decision to force Microsoft to give users the option of picking the browser they want to use when they boot up Windows. The ruling also requires Microsoft to make it easy for users to download the browser of their choice without being required to follow several steps to do it.
As expected, Microsoft is downplaying the ruling. It contends that although it's giving the millions of European users a choice of browser, it doesn't expect Internet Explorer to lose too much market share. And with a dominating 61 percent share of the worldwide browser market, the company likes to look at current figures rather than worry about the future.
But worrying is exactly what Microsoft should be doing right now. Never before has it been so easy for users to pick the browser they really want to use. The ruling could have a major effect on Internet Explorer's market share. And the company needs to be prepared for that.
Luckily for Microsoft, it can do some things to protect Internet Explorer and deaden the blow of being forced to offer other browsers to users. It just takes some time, money and a few smart strategies.
Let's take a look at what Microsoft needs to do:
1. Work on security
For years, Microsoft has been dealing with complaints over Internet Explorer security. It has contributed to Mozilla's Firefox success. It has also helped Google Chrome grow its market share as the rest of the browsers on the market decline. If Microsoft wants to limit the impact the EU's ruling will have on Internet Explorer, it needs improve the browser's security first. Yes, it's that important.
2. Improve Internet Explorer's speed
One of the main reasons some users would switch to Google Chrome or even Opera is speed. Users want to be able to surf to a Web page quickly without the browser slowing them down. In many tests, researchers have found that Internet Explorer is somewhat slower than the competition. If Windows owners realize that, they might opt for something else. Microsoft needs to work hard at improving its browser's speed as soon as possible.
3. Announce enhancements
No one is expecting Microsoft to totally revamp Internet Explorer overnight. But the company needs to be proactive and announce updates to the software that will be coming at some point in the not-too-distant future. It should talk about security and speed in that announcement. It should also discuss how it plans to improve the software going into 2011. If users find out about those upcoming updates, they might deploy Internet Explorer and wait to see what happens.
4. Focus on name recognition
One of the most important things Microsoft has going for it is Internet Explorer's name recognition. Many Windows users are novices who want only to check e-mail and surf the Web every now and then. All they know is Internet Explorer. And in some cases, the software's icon has become synonymous with the Internet. Microsoft needs to realize the importance of Internet Explorer, its logo and its name recognition. All that could stymie the growth of some of its competitors.