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. M$ stops developing Ie for Mac. IE for Mac will now start to age and become less and less usable and be replaced with other, newer browsers for Mac. The quick result is that IE’s marketshare will drop.

    Right now, some click-and-build webmaster wanna-be’s design for IE only, figuring they’ve got 90% of the market covered and that other 10% is no big deal. As IE’s marketshare drops below 90%, more and more smart business leaders are going to see lost profits due to failure to follow W3C standards that all conforming browsers can use.

    My first reaction to M4’s announcement was, “Great, now they’ll jsut use their bastardized standardards to develop webpages for Windows only.” Upon further reflection, however, I now think that plan will backfire on them.

    Have you ever seen the reaction of an 800 pound gorilla that thinks he can sit anywhere he wants to sit, when that gorilla sits on a bed of very angry ants?

    This could get interesting indeed.

  2. Bubbatel tells us he bought a G4 dual 867 lately & paid through the nose for it. Of course he did. The G4 towers have been hideously overpriced since inception, chiefly, I suspect, because Moto is still fabbing chips using stone knives & bearskins. Remember, the 1.25 & 1.42 GHz G4s are essentially overclocked 1 GHz chips — which means they are a small percentage cherry-picked from Moto’s Planet of the Apes production line. Apple prices those systems sky-high as a rationing device. At those prices, they still sell just about all the high-end G4s Moto can sell them. Why cut prices if it won’t increase sales?

    Now, you can buy stock 1 GHz G4s without pledging your kidneys, & those are the chips that go into Powerbooks — which are indeed pretty comparable, pricewise, with Dell laptops. (I just priced an Inspiron at dell.com, matching features as closely as possible with the 15″ Superdrive Powerbook. Result: Apple $2599, Dell $2548.)

    If nothing else, the 970 means this: IBM is making 1.8 GHz chips ON PURPOSE, whereas Moto puts out the occasional 1.4 GHz G4 by accident. Reliable volume production — that’s the key. I expect to see the G5 towers come in substantially cheaper than the G4s they replace.

    By the way, I browsed dell.com with Safari, & it seems pretty nearly W3C compliant. Dell may be shackled hand & foot to M$, but they are not stupid enough to turn away 15% of their potential customers by requiring IE to access their site. The demise of MSIE for Mac, which was pretty much crippleware in any case, means little. When (not if) M$ gasses Office Mac, the bullets will fly.

  3. Jay, read more slowly and you will not sound like a dope. I didn’t say I paid through the nose for it. It’s a nice machine, a good deal I think, and will run my son’s graphic apps just fine, a nice change from his G3:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2735744769&category=14912

    Compare dell stuff to the odd Mac offering (it does seem they are competing nicely on laptops), but the fact remains that I have two newish pc’s, both running at almost 3 ghz, one AMD and one intel, with a gig of ram and 80 to 120 meg harddrives, dvd/cd burner combos, etc, etc, and each were less than $900, delivered, with 3 year warranties, with windows 2000 installed. I think you can get an equivelent G4 at 2.5 times that price. I hope Apple can ship G5’s for less, but I bet they won’t. They are still convinced, as are most of the crowd here, that price, features, and speed don’t really matter, if it is a Mac its….just…..better.

  4. bubbatel,

    If it is a Mac, it *is* just better. I am forced to use Windows 2000 and XP at work, but I choose to buy Macintosh for my own use with my own money. And I never stop trying to convince the stone-headed IT fools at work to give Mac a chance. They wouldn’t dare – Wintel is their job security. If they went all-Mac, we could cut our IT costs in half or more!

    How many people do you know who use a Mac at work, but choose to use and buy Wintel for their own homes?

  5. The iMacs and PowerBooks are great deals, and are years ahead of any PC in terms of usability. The G4 towers are just slow and expensive Mac versions of PC boxes – it baffles me why anyone would buy one. Perhaps when the 970-based desktops become available, if they cost LESS than the G4-based desktops, then Apple will have some reasonable desktop tower offerings.

    In the meantime, if I need a big, ugly, loud computer that is cheap, fast and reliable, my home-built AthlonXP rig fits the bill perfectly. It pretty much gathers dust since I got my PowerBook, even if the PC is much faster.

    It’s tragic how much happier 99% of PC users would be if they just bought new iBooks or iMacs – all of their computing needs would be either met or exceeded, their electric bills would go down, they would have quieter and more reliable computers, they wouldn’t have to worry about viruses and spyware, they wouldn’t have to worry about forced upgrades from Microsoft… Even if they couldn’t experience the mightly IE 6, featuring endless pop-up ads.

  6. Of course this is the MS response to the switcher campaign. One of Apple’s major arguments is that you can run MS Office apps on a Mac. While it is just the browser it would give a potential switcher real pause to know that MS is pulling support for the Mac.

  7. I think Apple can shake things up in the browser wars if they come up with a program to create web pages. If they can do it with movie editing like they have with Final Cut Pro, they can do it with the web. If they can create the best web page making application on the planet and release Safari for the PC, they will give Explorer a run for its money.

  8. Safari and Music Store for Windows:

    This was a great opinion piece it hits part of what Apple needs to do – make Safari for Windows.

    But that begs the question of who would use Safari on Windows? What is the insentive – the carrot if you will.

    Answer: Apple’s Music Store

    Steve Jobs never said iTunes would be coming to the PC by years end, he said that Apple’s Music Store would be coming to Windows by years end. There is a big difference between these two phrasings.

    I believe it is in Apple’s best interest to launch the Apple Music Store within Safari. Just a simple button that says “Music Store” should suffice.

    Windows users would now have the music store available to them in the size of a Safari download.

    The strategy for Apple in this move is huge.
    1. All the windows iPod users along with Windows users looking for a great music buying eperience will now download Safari – and the only way to get their music is to use the Safari browser.
    2. How long will it be until the PC user buying music via Apple’s Online Music Store built into Safari makes Safari their default browser? Probably very, very quickly.
    3. Apple will continue to make it very easy to easy move all your favorite stuff from IE into Safari.

    Add to this that Safari is one fast and small browser will all the right features, and Windows market share for Safari could well hit 10%+ in the consumer arena very quickly. Something M$ will hate, and be unable to stop.

    Meanwhile Apple makes money from their Windows music store.

    But the end game is simple: Make sure IE market share on Windows starts shrinking, in order to make sure M$ cannot tweak IE into some IE + .net only environement for developers. If Apple can do this, along with Windows users helping along the way by using Safari, then M$’s huge Internet control plans are squashed… or at least, put on hold for a while until they come up with a Plan B – which will be their own music store built into IE…

    Regards,

    Mark

  9. Matt:

    Nice insight (re: iTMS-for-Windows-via-Safari)!
    I really hope this “trojan horse” idea of yours is what Apple is actually up to, and not just wishful thinking…

  10. missing the point here gents – yes Microsoft has stopped developing IE for Mac – but that is because it cannot compete with Apple and Safari on the Mac platform – it is not because it feels it can monopolize the code – yes Mac users will have some problems with server-side technology that is Wintel, but this will reduce with the increase in punters who insist upon open compliance and UNIX ware – stop being so defeatist

    rob gorthy

  11. Mark, you’re wrong. Apple explicitly said that iTunes for Windows is coming, and that they are indeed creating a version of the iTunes software, for Windows, so that Windows users can access the iTunes Music Store.

  12. It might of interest to note that MS plans to dissolve IE for Windows as wel. They have MSN and a new browser environment will be coded into the new “Longhorn” OS. I figure if they just axe the name Internet Explorer and make browsing an integral part of the OS instead of saying “IE is built in” then they’ll keep the DOJ off their ass.

    Zeldman also has a good piece on the death of IE. Check it out at http://www.zeldman.com

  13. Woops, forgot something. This is pointed out in the Zeldman article, but for those of you who won’t read it, there is this point to consider: Web Standards. If the competition (Netscape, Mozilla, Camino, Opera, Safari) continue to maintian the current development of standards compliant browsers then it is realistic to believe that soon there will be not IE model website, because under standards it will itself be broken.

    I personally hope this act encourages many developers to more openly embrace web and usability standards instead of trying to code for that wretchedly crippled browser. I’ve been on a few sites that only work in IE and have since found alternative places to do my browsing.

    I agree with the editorial that if we let IE run the web it has won. If people continue to use IE as the model for compatibility then I suppose we can keep struggling to implement standards, but developers take this opportunity it can be in the best interest of not only Mac users, but PC users as well.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.