Not even Microsoft love for Internet Explorer

Antitrust pressure focuses on Redmond's confidence in its own browser

Does Microsoft really hate Internet Explorer?

I only ask this question because it looks like - yet again - that Microsoft is going to be hit be an antitrust fine for not introducing enough browser choice within its Windows operating system for end users.

When I read about this, I could help but wonder if this is either a big sign of American disrespect for those wacky foreigners or a portent of massive insecurity on the part of Microsoft for not wanting to pit Internet Explorer against open source Firefox and Google Chrome browsers.

I'm only kidding about the "wacky foreigner" bit. No U.S. corporation should seriously want to risk an entire market just because they don't like the politics and regulations. You want to sell things in a given region, you learn to play by the rules. Leave it to politicians to screw things up.

But here we are, with Microsoft on the verge of violating a 2009 agreement with the EU that required the software giant to have a pop-up window show up in the initial Windows configuration process that would enable users to pick from a multitude of browsers. What gives?

According to EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia, recently Windows 7 users did not see that pop-up window, which amounted to a breach of the 2009 commitment. For its part, Microsoft has already apologized for the mistake, saying that it was a glitch in Windows 7's Service Pack 1 that caused the pop-up to disappear.

Almunia isn't biting, declaring that an apology doesn't make up for the fact that up to 28 million users were denied a choice.

Microsoft and the EU have been going at this for a long time, with the U.S. firm racking up fines over $1.3 billion. According to the terms of the 2009 agreement, Microsoft could have to pay a maximum fine of 10% of its annual revenue if found guilty: a massive $7.4 billion.

Microsoft is not the only one who has insecurities about its browser. Apple has been dancing around the line with browser lock-in lately, the most recent example was only letting Safari users view yesterday's live stream of the mini-iPad announcement. Everyone else had to watch it later.

Was Microsoft's SP1 excuse a true human error? It seems hard to believe, but it very well could have been. I present this bone-head move from Google last week as evidence that people can make really big mistakes with significant ramifications.

But it this was Microsoft testing to see if they could get away from dropping the choice box, it was not only a dumb move, it speaks badly of the confidence in their own browser. Because the only reason they don't to offer choice is that they're afraid more people will leave IE for something else.

I'm not a big fan of Internet Explorer, but here's an idea for Microsoft: make it better. Make it the best browser out on the market place, and people won't even think about moving to Firefox or Chrome. They'll stay with IE because it's good, not because you try to shove it in their faces.

This is not rocket science, people. And it could very well save you up to $7.4 billion someday.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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