Microsoft doesn’t care which browser Mac users run; Internet Explorer has already won

Upon its debut in 2000, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5 for Mac OS X was the best browser on the planet. Macworld’s Tom Negrino wrote in his review, “Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5 is not only the best Web browser ever released for the Macintosh, but also arguably the best Web browser ever released for any computing platform. Built for speed and compliant with Internet standards, IE 5 strikes an excellent balance between users’ needs and developers’ desires. Thanks to performance far superior to that of the aging Netscape Navigator 4.X, there’s no compelling reason not to download the new version.”

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the end of development of future Macintosh versions of its Internet Explorer browser, citing competition from Apple Computer’s Safari browser.

Since when does Microsoft fold their tent and walk away from a fight? And compliment their competitor to boot? Well, only when they’ve won. The only surprising thing about this is that it took so long for Microsoft to knife the IE Mac baby.

Let’s face it; it doesn’t matter to Microsoft if Mac users use Internet Explorer anymore. 85% of the world’s computers accessing the Internet use Microsoft IE. It wouldn’t matter if Apple made a browser that could teletransport its users directly to their virtual destinations in an instant, because the world’s web developers and designers wouldn’t be able to use that feature unless they wished to exclude 85% of their potential traffic. Those who make the sites on the Web have to make them work for Internet Explorer first.

Now it’s up to Microsoft to decide whether to support open standards or develop their own that work only with Internet Explorer. Does anyone wonder which course they’ll chart?

I personally have to use Microsoft Internet Explorer to access three sites running IIS that require IE to login. It’s just three sites – for now.

Apple is going to have its hands full making sure Safari supports whatever Microsoft decides they’ll need to support. Apple now works for Microsoft as the developer of the Mac version of Internet Explorer called Safari. There is no cost to Microsoft. They just set the standard and Apple does all the work.

The only ways around this are for people to create Mac-only websites to take advantage of Safari’s future extra-IE features and technologies (further weakening standards), for web sites to not use Microsoft servers, in which case the sites will still have to work with IE or forfeit 85% of the users, or for Apple to increase its share of the installed base to levels that would threaten Windows and Internet Explorer dominance.

Sure, Safari is fast, has Tabbed Browsing, excellent Bookmark management, and a raft of other features, and Apple can continue to improve what is arguably already the best browser on the planet even in Public Beta 2 form. But, when it comes right down to it, Safari must work with sites developed, designed, and intended for Internet Explorer. And it’s already been proven through and through that 85% of the world will accept what they are told is “good enough,” just look at Wintel. Only a select cream of the crop feel they deserve the very best, can recognize what’s best, and are willing to pay for it.

Microsoft Internet Explorer, by way of the Windows monopoly, has become so powerful that it doesn’t need to exist on the Macintosh.

Steve Jobs does have at least two huge aces up his sleeve: Safari for Windows and Mac OS X for x86. But, without Steve dropping his own private Fat Man or Little Boy (or both) on the computer industry, Safari developers are stuck adhering to Microsoft’s whims, constantly making sure Safari can read pages developed and designed to work with, you guessed it, Microsoft Internet Explorer.

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

47 Comments

  1. Steve, Excellent observation! I used to drink the Microsoft kool aid until I saw the light and realized that they are not simply a software company looking to develop quality solutions for their customers but rather, a company hell bent on having ownership over all technologies. They want to drive all the “standards” and Bill Gates want’s to be the puppeteer pulling all the strings. I used to enjoy the computing experience on a PC but now, it’s just more of the same old, spy on you, spend your money on broken sh!t, shotty service, crappy performance, and, worst of all, make BG richer. I’m not into that anymore. As of today, I’m switching.

  2. If Apple is smart, they will extend the Safari line to include Windows and Linux browsers. Additionally, they could come out with a Safari-branded set of web developer tools that would undercut M$. As we can all see, the Clinton Justice Dept really blew it on the Microsoft lawsuit. Of course, Apple settled with M$ in their lawsuit over the ripoff of Mac for $100 million years before that.

  3. IE gone for Mac? Good – it’s the worst browser on any platform. It stinks on my PowerBook, it stinks on my PC. I use Mozilla Firebird for my PC – gets me a cleaner interface, tabbed browsing and no pop-ups. On the Mac side, even without Safari I wouldn’t waste my time on IE. Opera, Mozilla, Firebird, and Camino are all better.

    I’d love to see Microsoft release IE for Linux, just to see the Linux world collectively chuckle and say “yeah, right”.

    This is about as disappointing as hearing that there will be no port of Tomb Raider II to Mac OS X.

    The only unfortunate thing about this is that the usual clueless idiots are going to go nuts with the Apple puns: “Microsoft takes bite out of Apple”, “Microsoft bruises Apple”, and so on. AAAHHH! So annoying!

  4. “As we can all see, the Clinton Justice Dept really blew it on the Microsoft lawsuit. Of course, Apple settled with M$ in their lawsuit over the ripoff of Mac for $100 million years before that.”

    Excuse me? You must be listening to too much A.M. radio. The Clinton Justice Dept. had M$ by the nards and was ready to cut them off when Twig and The Ayatollah Ashcroft came in and let them off clean. How does history get so distorted so fast?

  5. Agreed. M$pIE wasn’t that great on the Mac – or even on Win. BG3 let IE languish for years.

    And though we don’t need it, the most pernicious thing about this departure from the Mac is the perceptions it leaves, and the ‘locking-in’ that it might potentially do. Given the penchant M$s has proven time and again for trying to make its soviet-quality software ‘the standard’, the outlook seems bleak for those who like true choice. Yeah, we can choose whatever browser we want on any platform we want, but if 85% of the webpages in the future only work the M$way, that would mean we would need to get an M$ browser – which WILL only be available ‘in’ Windows!

    Anyway, as good as Safari; Mozilla; Camino; Firebird; iCab; Opera; et alii, are – they will have a huge inertia blob to move out of the way so that many will see their products are good, follow W3C ‘standards’ and are worth the effort to download.

  6. This is nothing to worry about! Microsoft doesn’t own the internet. There isn’t any reasonable way to make a web site IE-only, and if there was, it would only serve to exclude potential visitors.

    Besides, the widespread use of pop-up ads and web-imbedded ActiveX controls that install spyware will keep IE alternatives going strong.

    The internet continues to be based on open standards, in spite of Microsoft’s ham-fisted efforts. Good riddance to IE on Mac – Apple can make better software than MS every time. Let’s see Apple make an OpenOffice-based office solution next, I say. They could contribute to the project, just like they’ve done with Konqueror.

  7. “Only a select cream of the crop feel they deserve the very best, can recognize what’s best, and are willing to pay for it.”

    And that is the way it will stay. Most people are happy getting their mail read, tasks done, games played, songs downloaded etc. etc. as cheaply as possible. It’s personal choice whether one spends twice as much for the cream of the crop or gets by with what makes 85% of us happy. Add to that cost the burden of the inferiority complex that mac users have, and I will stay wintel, thank you.

    Steve Jack might be the most insecure person on the planet. It is obvious he knows he picked the wrong horse, and now must ride it into the ground.

  8. Why doesn’t Apple write some software for pc’s? It seems a natural winner, the best code supplied to the largest market………………Is it just too over the line for Mac to cave in that way, I hope they are not waiting for pc’s to die.

  9. Apple sees the bigger picture.

    Apple will have 2 to 3 major updates of their OS by the time MS produces Longhorn. It will be delayed an extra 6 months in a feeble effort make it look like it is not 4 years behind Mac OS.

    When MS integrates their browser with their other network aps, it will be a huge, overly complex, lumbering monster with more security holes and more difficult to upgrade with any level of stability.

    Steve Jobs has never failed to impress and awe the computer community every year, as well as advance the indutries standards and hardware.

    But, by then, Apple users will be tearing through the internet with Safari 2 as they drag and drop content into their office software, iCratchet 2, a FULL version that rivals MS Office including an accounting program (simpler, more powerful than Quicken), but is integrated with iLife (movies into documents, documents into movies, iPhoto is a menu in the text ap, etc). iCratchet will be greatly simplified and even make enjoyable, designing webpages, making posters, balancing your budget, word processing and fully import/exports all MS file formats. Being integrated with iLife, all of your posters, letter head, movies, personal CD/DVD covers and web sites will have the same look without designing each one separately. It is NOT a lame watered down MsWorks, but a much more enhanced version of MsOffice, and available as a free download. An enhanced version for small/medium businesses (with business accounting, Keynote, and Photoshop Elements) will be available for $99.

    At this point, the reason to use anything by Microsoft will soon vanish. People will quickly tire of their system crashing and constantly updating anti-virus files (in 2 years, it will be well over 120,000). Microsoft does not have the leadership with enough imagination, creativity or customer sensitivity to keep up with Apple.

    Within 5 years, Microsoft will exist only to support the old computers and the old, die-hard, programmers. Within 10 years, Bill Gates will be doing his personal work on an Apple computer, and school children will be taught computer history about how Gates “MSed the boat” as they see it all on their voice activated, wireless, pMac (Pocket Mac). A ten-year-old will plainly see that Gates’ greed blinded him to this customer’s needs.

    In 10 years, Gates will open a Computer Museum after his attempt at creating new watches and digital refridgerator magnets fails.

  10. bubbatel, you obviously haven’t done any shopping for laptops lately. Dell D400 laptops, for example, cost more than similarly configured PowerBook 12″ models, by over $200 as I discovered. Look into it.

    You could pay more for the plastic dell, or save money and get a better computer with the aluminum PowerBook, provided you can survive life without IE and its endless pop-up ads.

  11. <quote>
    I personally have to use Microsoft Internet Explorer to access three sites running IIS that require IE to login. It’s just three sites – for now.
    </quote>
    Why don’t you not access these sites – if enough people did this, and advised the owners of these sites, then (hopefully) webdesigners will take notice and not design for only one browser (not a very good one at that – standards wise)

  12. nick, I have shopped for a mac recently, and bought one, a slightly used dual 867. I looked at new ones as well. My take on the experience is that most comparable apple models are twice, or more than pc’s from reputable dealers….of which I do not consider dell one btw, their stuff is expensive and support is unknowledgeable. The 12′ comparison might be true, but I think it is a minor exception. If apples prices were actually comparable to pc’s, then management should be shot because that is not at all the impression that most computer buyers have.

  13. <blockquote>Why don’t you not access these sites – if enough people did this, and advised the owners of these sites, then (hopefully) webdesigners will take notice and not design for only one browser (not a very good one at that – standards wise)</blockquote>

    The problem isn’t in the design of the page, it’s in the server side security. If you’re running a web server with IIS you have 3 choices for authentication. one is plaintext, the other is digest (where calculated hashes are exchanged instead), and the third is M$ take on Kerberos. The thirs is the most secure since it relies on rather heavily encrypted data but guess what…it only works with IE.

    The only way these sites can change that problem is to:

    a)Change authentication methods to a less secure one(not bloody likely)

    or

    b)Use a different Web Server technology

    Having just done option b on one of my department’s webservers I can attest to the fact that it is a ROYAL pain and a couple fulls days worth of work, even more if you have a database driven website like my department’s so option b is unlikely to happen as well.

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