The European Union announced Dec. 16 that it has officially dropped charges against Microsoft after the software giant agreed to give consumers the option to use up to 12 different browsers in Windows. It’s a major victory for those who have fought Microsoft’s practices. It’s also good news for Internet Explorer competitors such as Mozilla and Opera Software that have been fighting to take market share away from Microsoft’s browser.
But it’s bad news for Microsoft. The company really had no other option but to work out a deal with the European Union. Microsoft knew that no matter the outcome, it wouldn’t help Internet Explorer solidify its position as the leader in browser market in Europe and elsewhere.
As Mozilla’s Firefox browser continues to capture more of the market and Google’s Chrome OS quietly chips away at IE’s share, the European Union defeat is looking like a major problem for Microsoft. It likely won’t be the end of Internet Explorer, but it could certainly lead to the end of IE’s dominance. Here’s why:
1. Windows was a key to its success
One of the main reasons Internet Explorer has been such a success is Windows. By bundling the browser with the operating system, Microsoft made it so users didn’t have to think twice about getting onto the Web. Once an Internet connection was ready, they only needed to open Internet Explorer and surf to their favorite sites. Those days are now gone. And so is Internet Explorer’s built-in advantage.
2. The choices keep coming
There is no shortage of viable alternatives to Internet Explorer. Firefox has its extensions. Opera has its usability. Chrome has its speed. Safari has Apple’s reputation. There are so many good choices on the market that Internet Explorer, with its sometimes suspect performance, is being recognized as a less-than-ideal option.
3. Internet Explorer is having some trouble
Speaking of which, Internet Explorer has faced some serious PR problems in the past couple of years that have hindered its growth. Too often, the browser has been cited as an entryway for malware. And considering the fact that Internet Explorer lacks the sheer number of add-ons that users can find in Firefox, it’s no wonder that folks are switching browsers.
4. Google is making Chrome part of its strategy
Unlike any other company, Microsoft is deathly afraid of what Google can do. Google knows it. And the search giant has its sights firmly set on Microsoft’s core businesses. A key component in that strategy is Chrome. Google realizes that all of its future goals hinge on the success or failure of its browser. That’s why it has released Chrome for Mac OS X. It’s also why its new operating system is based on Chrome. The world is waiting on Chrome, not Internet Explorer.
The Competition Gets Tougher
5. Firefox is quickly becoming a household name
A few years ago, most folks probably didn’t know Mozilla or its Firefox browser. But today, all that has changed. A growing number of users are downloading Firefox after realizing that it provides a great browsing experience. In the meantime, it’s Internet Explorer that’s suffering. Looking ahead, the chances of that changing are slim. Firefox is gaining more and more popularity, and there’s nothing Microsoft can do about it.
6. Internet Explorer doesn’t match up well
Following that, it’s important to realize that Internet Explorer doesn’t compare well with the competition. The browser is slower than Chrome and Safari. It’s a little less user-friendly than Opera. And Mozilla’s lineup of add-ons easily eclipses anything Microsoft offers. Some might be hard-pressed to find an area where Internet Explorer holds a decisive advantage.
7. The Apple effect
Now that Safari is being offered on both Mac OS X and Windows, it’s slowly gaining ground in the browser market. That’s no coincidence. People know and trust Apple products. When they hear that Apple has offered up a simple yet speedy browser for Windows, they want to try it out. Apple is an extremely powerful brand in any tech-related market. That’s hurting Microsoft.
8. Regulators are still gunning for Microsoft
Just because Microsoft cut a deal, it doesn’t mean that the company is out of the woods yet. The European Union will be monitoring Microsoft’s browser practices to make sure it holds up its end of the bargain. If it doesn’t, you can bet regulators will unleash a firestorm on Redmond. For that matter, you can expect that either way regulators, especially in Europe, will be keeping an eye on Microsoft.
9. The online OS isn’t so far away
Chrome OS might totally change the way people view browsers. Google’s operating system is still about a year away and it will be designed for netbooks, but there’s a real chance that, if successful, Chrome OS could have a major impact on the browser market. And Microsoft will be left wondering where all the users went.
10. The changeover will be easy
Switching from Internet Explorer to another browser will be painless for most users. That’s a problem for Microsoft. The most successful products in any market have locked down key success factors that are extremely difficult to either improve upon or match. Internet Explorer falls short in that category, making the competition easily able to match anything Microsoft offers up.
The future doesn’t look so bright for Internet Explorer. And, so far, Microsoft has done little to change that.