TechRadar has a great appreciation article for the 5 year birthday of the Firefox browser. Here is the best part:
We’re celebrating the anniversary of two big events this week: the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the birth of Firefox. We’ll remember one of them as bringing freedom to millions and dealing a hammer blow to a repressive regime, and we’ll remember the other as that thing where Bono pranced around in front of the Brandenburg Gate. If it weren’t for Firefox, you’d be reading this in IE6 – the software equivalent of the horrible Trabants the East Germans tooled around in before the Wall came down.
I chuckled at the clever reversal with Redmond becoming the “repressive regime”.
And that is the sticking point confronting IT and society in general today. Joseph Schumpeter’s monopolists do indeed sew the seeds of their own destruction … but what Joe left out is that correction for monopoly market shortcomings often takes a long time. Look at the browser market: for 5 years Firefox and Opera [and now Apple Safari and Google Chrome] have had superior browsers to Microsoft IE. The current situation where Firefox and Opera offer at least 3 times the speed; more OS support, more new themes, extensions, and gestures features; and most important of all, more W3C and other Web standards support than IE – they are clearly better browsers. Yet all four superior browsers have failed to wrest more than 35% share from IE which is still the browser leader by 60-65%.
The Crux of the Problem – DeFacto Desktop Standards
But what makes the situation even more dysfunctional, no major IT player has dared to challenge this negative leadership. Not Apple, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM nor Intel. Okay -one vendor, Google. Google is slowly but surely, piece by Google API piece, establishing on the Web a set of must have/must use free and often Open Source APIs that are becoming Web standards as vital as the Windows API on the desktop. Look at Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Go and Google Android as a few examples.
So as the desktop , Mobile and Web APIs rush towards convergence and great interdependence look who is calling the shots on the standards for servers, then the desktop, then on the Web, and finally on the mobile/gadget markets. IBM and Oracle are still kings of the backend with SAP and Microsoft contenders, but on the frontend [desktop, Web and Mobile] its a race between Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Everybody else will be vassals like AMD, Intel, Dell, HP, Acer et alia in the PC marketplace. And to think, ten years ago all of this could have been settled if the Antitrust Remedy for Microsoft had been that Microsoft had to divest itself of its IE and IIS servers and stay out of the Web market for eight years. Like the break up of AT&T 15 years before it would have been neat, simple and best for Business.