Im not sure I can go along with Jim Rapozas proposition that some FEMA developer was "lazy" in not accommodating more browsers than Internet Explorer (Tech Directions, "High Stakes for Standards" or "FEMAs IE-Only Form: Just What Katrina Victims Dont Need," Sept. 19.)
Im no shill for Microsoft and no apologist for FEMA [which Rapoza took to task for making its request-for-assistance form accessible only by IE 6.0 or higher browsers].
I am a business development manager for a fairly significant software company and have to deal with many issues when determining how to bring a product to market (or to the public, in any case) and where to direct efforts to maximize benefit for our customer base. Decisions have to be made that balance budget and resources against market realities.
Go to any electronics store—Windows apps and hardware account for 80 to 90 percent of the inventory. If you want to get maximum application/content coverage, its obvious: Write for Windows first.
I am not saying that the remainder is not important. Im just saying that when "coverage for the buck" is an issue, you go Windows, and that means IE.
Without some additional knowledge of the constraints the FEMA Web developers were under, you cant run to the usual dumb-developer/damned-money-grubber/Windows-bigot accusations.
The real crime would be if the content were running only on obscure browsers and [Hurricane Katrina victims] couldnt fill out a FEMA aid-request form off of the donated Dell, HP, Compaq, eMachine, etc. systems that are being sent down to the Gulf Coast region by the hundreds.
I think you are losing sight of the fact that having the process online is itself a huge benefit, regardless of the browser issue.