10 Ways Microsoft Can Dodge Damage from EU Browser Ruling

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-03-02

10 Ways Microsoft Can Dodge Damage from EU Browser Ruling

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.

Microsoft Needs to Build for the Future

5. Advertise

It might not be the Microsoft way to promote Internet Explorer through conventional advertising avenues, but it's the smart move. Windows users need to be reminded that, according to Microsoft, they should use Internet Explorer before any other browser. They also need to be reminded that it's the browser they have likely been using for a long time. The value of advertising can't be underestimated.

6. Start acquiring

Microsoft has billions of dollars in its coffers. If the company loses browser market share, it should acquire some competing firms to ensure that, going forward, it won't need to worry so much. Admittedly, such a move might raise some red flags with the EU and other government regulators. But if Microsoft starts losing major market share, they might be less likely to take offense.

7. More extensions

Part of the value of Mozilla's Firefox browser is the availability of extensions. Whether it's social-networking integration or productivity apps, the browser accommodates developer desire to expand their Websites or services beyond their own domain. It also improves the experience of using a browser. Internet Explorer has some extensions available, but they pale in comparison to Firefox. Microsoft needs to work harder at delivering extensions before Firefox gets new users to see value in them.

8. Find Google's weakness

If Microsoft should be worried of any company in the browser market, it's Google. Even before the EU imposed its regulations, the search giant's Chrome browser was gaining ground on Internet Explorer. Now that the EU has practically started a new browser war, Google could gain significant ground in a short amount of time. Realizing that, Microsoft needs to analyze Chrome and attempt to find its core weakness. It can then exploit that both in its advertising efforts and by improving upon that weakness in Internet Explorer. That might be the only way Microsoft can stop Chrome before it's too late.

9. Think simplicity

A key reason why so many users pick a browser like Google Chrome is its simplicity. Users need only to load it up and browse with little interaction with menus. Internet Explorer needs to be simpler to use. Prior to the EU ruling, Microsoft didn't necessarily need to make Internet Explorer simpler because it knew few users would switch to other browsers. But now, switching is much easier and they might find a viable browser in Chrome. Make Internet Explorer easier to use, Microsoft. It's for your own good.

10. Stay focused

Although making other browsers available to European Windows users will hit Microsoft hard over the next few months as it loses market share, the company needs to stay focused on the bigger prize: browser-market dominance. It might lose market share in the near term, but if it can work hard at improving Internet Explorer and advertising its value, the company can come out on top. This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. Microsoft needs to remember that.

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