Brain Waves Blog

European versions Windows 7 to dispatch without Internet Explorer

Author: Pete Tozer, Published: 2009-6-17

European versions Windows 7 to dispatch without Internet Explorer

For the European-based among you or the particularly keyed in, you may have seen details of Microsoft's decision not the include Internet Explorer 8 with the versions of Windows 7 provided in Europe. This is merely the latest development in a long-running legal battle between Microsoft and the European Union that dates back to 2004. The European Union claims that Microsoft is gaining an unfair advantage over competing Internet browsers.

The principle organisation taking a stand against Microsoft is Opera that offers browser software that, according to the W3C, caters for between 2% and 2.5% of the total internet audience.

IS THIS GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS?
Obviously, this will principally affect European users but any North American company that offers services over the pond should be aware that the Internet browser market may be opening up again. The more pessimistic commentators may harken back to the days of the "Browser Wars" where no clear leader could be found and vast differences between the operating platforms caused havoc for designers trying to support constantly changing coding requirements in an emerging online economy.

In short, it won't happen again.

The W3C statistics clearly show that Microsoft's monopoly over Internet browsers has been on the wane for a number of years: in May 2005, Internet Explorer (versions 5 and 6) accounted for over 70% of users but in May 2009, it accounted for almost half that amount at 41% (through versions 6, 7 and 8). In fact, it was the freely-downloadable Firefox that ws the most widely used browser that month accounting for 47% of users.

The Internet is already in a state where there is no clearly dominant browser technology and, yet, there is very little of the chaos that existed the last time this was the case.

The simple fact is that most browsers follow a minimum specification as outlined by the W3C Web Standards body. The need for them to do so is reenforced by Disability Discrimination legislation in most of the Western World intended to ensure that Web-based services are readily available to people with a disability such as visual impairment and, perhaps more significantly, companies that simply don't want to pay through the nose to develop sites which operate different ways for different browsers!

SO, IS THIS GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS?
It really is neither. There are criticisms that Microsoft will still monopolise distribution and that they will be making Internet Explorer just as freely available to any Windows 7 user - they simply won't be installing it. It does create an opportunity for a competitor such as Opera to strike a deal with a computer vendor such as Dell or HP to have their software installed on new Windows 7 machines but it would likely need massive financial backing and the only organisation rumoured to have that sort of spare cash at present is Google.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR A BUSINESS LOOKING TO LAUNCH A NEW WEBSITE?
The entry of a third significant browser platform onto the Internet would heighten the need for companies to seek designers who can support minimum standards and produce sites that operate equally well on all platforms. Too many companies still employ designers who produce sites that do not render properly on either Internet Explorer or Firefox. This is purely because they do not code to the proper standard.

If your company is looking to contract for a new site, make sure that you engage with a company that has an awareness of best practice and can produce a site that not only renders correctly on all browsers but also provides the legally required minimum support for users with disabilities.

- Pete Tozer




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