Victory! Microsoft to introduce choice of browser

Reuters reports that Microsoft is trying to solve two EU cases at the same time by letting users choose their browser, rather than IE or no browser at all.

The solution is one of we've discussed before, using a dialog at the first boot of Windows to let the user choose their default installed browser. If this will be part of Windows 7 it could be seen as a big victory for Opera (and those in favor, such as Mozilla and Google).

Of course the details are still a bit sketchy: will it be included in Windows 7, which browsers will be offered as a choice, will Microsoft actually (properly) educate about what the choices mean (or let browser vendors speak for themselves)?

Google Chrome OS coming in 2010

Google has just announced their latest product, Google Chrome OS, an operating system based on the Linux kernel initially targeted at netbooks.

But the real thing you're wondering is of course, why is it named Chrome OS? Well, that's because Google Chrome will be the base of the operating system. Chrome OS will allow you to easily access the web on your netbooks while keeping a close eye on elements that matter: speed, simplicity and security. Chrome OS is suppose to show the way operating systems should evolve (in Google's eyes), which is bringing you even closer to the web than before.

If you're thinking, where's the Chrome part, besides being the default browser? Well, Chrome actually serves as the platform. Chrome OS will (only) run web applications that run on Chrome, meaning a combination of JavaScript, HTML, etc.

Currently Google has another OS, named Android, for mobile phones and is also being ported to netbooks. Google expects some overlap between the two, as they'll share some technologies (and hardware?), but will surely be a big competitor (and name) against Moblin, Eeebuntu, Windows 7 and other netbook operating systems.

Google Chrome OS is expected to debut in the second half of 2010, initially for netbooks.

Boycott Opera?

Ars Technica has an interesting article on a recent action done by JCXP, who wants to boycott Opera due to the EU lawsuit against Microsoft. They claim that Opera Software is solely responsible for pushing the EU to pursue the case even further, beyond the already announced Windows 7 'E' edition without Internet Explorer.

What the EU currently proposes as a solution is a dialog that appears where the user can select his or her web browser. One of the major problems is that a lot of people are still unaware of the full range of choices to browse the web. However such a solution does invite some questions: Which browsers should be included (what if browser X also wants to be there)? Should they be downloaded or really bundled within Windows? How do you make sure that people understand they won't ask Microsoft for support?

Especially the later one is a real problem. As we all know IE has dominated the browser market for a considerable amount of time. Ever since the fall of Netscape (Communicator 4) IE has been dictating the "evolution" of the web, rather than the W3C. And as such, even today, a considerable amount of web sites are still geared to IE primarily, using either sloppy code, or non-standard methods (including JavaScript). But what if a new user selects, well, for instance Opera, because it has many interesting features and mail and stumbles upon web sites that don't work? What if it's your bank site? Hmmm, yes, now to make sure that a user asks support from Opera Software, as most likely your PC manufacturer won't be able to answer it, nor Microsoft support. In the end, in a worse case scenario, that user will end up installing IE one way or another to get that site working. More or less it's a chicken-and-egg problem. You need more people to use different browsers (with proper standards support) to have more web sites become compatible, and you need more sites compatible to get more people. Mozilla's Firefox is one (and only?) case that shows with significant velocity by the community it has gained a considerable market share, possible caused by insecurity of IE (at that time) and attractive features.

Of course we've not addressed the part where the EU is forcing Microsoft to bundle multiple other browsers in their own product. Windows is made by Microsoft, as well as IE, similar to Mac OS X and Safari by Apple. Why a case at all? Why not both? In has to do with understanding monopolies. Apple is not a monopoly in the market of computers or smart phones. Therefore they do not abuse their position to dominate another market, even if they bundle their own software. Microsoft on the other hand has nearly the entire OS market for consumers, and has actively pushed other players out of the browser market in the old days of Netscape.

So why is the EU not happy with Microsoft's approach of removing IE from Windows and letting PC manufacturers chose? Well, first of all the EU cannot monitor if Microsoft may be pushing manufacturers to install IE anyway, and second of all a previous effort where Windows Media Player was removed from Windows (the 'N' edition) utterly failed. None of the manufacturers were willing to use a media player less Windows, nor willing to fussle around educating people of alternative choices.

So is Opera Software at fault? No, Opera Software did ask the EU to investigate the case, but Opera Software is not responsible for either Microsoft's or EU's behavior in this whole case. Also take note that both Google and Mozilla are interested third parties in this case to offer advise, as the solution everyone is looking for is a generic one, not in favor of just Opera.

Bing Beta launched

Microsoft has launched the beta version of their new search (decision) engine, called Bing. As you may know the fate of a search engine is connected with that of web browsers, how fast we'll we see Bing getting adopted by Firefox, Opera and Safari?

Whether Bing sounds better or worse than Google or Kumo (the previous codename for Bing) is not really an issue. It's short and easily remembered by. My own initial tests look positive. The results are a bit different than Google, but better than the old Live Search. Also the images search is much nicer than Google's, as it loads while scrolling. But what is more important is that none of the current browsers out there has Bing as an option in their search fields, so people have to implicitly go there, which at the moment hampers adoption.

With Google working on Chrome the relationship between Mozilla and them has changed a bit. My guess is that this leaves an option open to have Microsoft buy their position of standard search engine in the second most popular web browser. Opera also seems like a good candidate to add the search engine to, with Apple's Safari being a tougher choice (as Google has people in Apple's board of directors and Apple works on top of many Google services).

The question is when we'll see movement. Currently Bing is still in beta, and may not yet receive the full marketing force from Microsoft. But whenever it happens we might see a wave beyond Internet Explorer in additions of (default) search engines. For now Firefox users can add the search engine as an unofficial add-on, or just by adding it manually as with other browsers.

What did you Bing for today?

Update: Only a day later Microsoft officially launched the Bing search engine add-on for Firefox.

Google Chrome 2.0 released

Google has promoted Chrome as the new stable release, making it second big release since the humble beginnings last year.

Only 8 months since the official announcement the second release polishes several key areas for browser users: new tab improvements (remove thumbnails), full screen mode, and form autofill support. Besides these features Google also focused on increased stability as well as increased speed.

Google officially states they only use version numbering for metrics, thus their update policy is the same, everybody gets updated to Chrome 2, through the auto update mechanism. If you don't have Chrome yet, you can download it from the official web site.

Hopefully we'll see more work on extensions support (like Firefox), smooth scrolling and color profile support in the next major milestone.

Chrome is a movie star!

Although Google Chrome's share may not be that high, though surpassing Opera in many countries, the upcoming second release has gotten people excited. With a faster V8, and work going on getting extensions support like Firefox it's easy to forget what already is there.

A series of technical videos showcase Chrome's unique features which are mostly yet untouched by the competition. Chrome recently gained an impressive title as it has won a hacker's contest as being the most secure browser (where hackers were unable to break out of its sandbox). Other browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari were successfully hacked, while Opera was not part of the contest. The videos on Chrome include: Darin Fisher on its multi-process architecture, Brett Wilson on the various layers of Chrome, Dimitri Glazkov on WebKit, Ben Goodger on Views (and how to write good tests for them), Wan-Teh Chang and Eric Roman on Chrome's network stack (and its history).

If you're not really into all that technical stuff there are also eleven short movies on Chrome, which offer a nice approach of explaining what differs it from the competition.

Central and Eastern European warzone

While the Western parts of the world seem to have settled between Internet Explorer and Firefox, the central and eastern part of Europe think differently.

Recent reports from both camps indicate that at least one party is on the losing side, Microsoft's Internet Explorer is clearly not popular there. Some weeks ago David Storey, from Opera Software, made a nice post with an SVG image on the Central and Eastern European market shares per country. In some countries Opera has a market share of up to 49%, and for instance Russia stands on 38%.

Now Firefox is also in the game for Central and Eastern Europe, and recent numbers show that Latvia has joined the 50+% barrier, following Macedonia, Poland, Bosnia, Slovenia, and Slovakia. Runner ups are Finland and Hungary, which are both in the high forties already.

Now if the Western world would pay more close attention...

Google introduces O3D API

Google has introduced their take on a 3D API for the web, named O3D. Although still early in development, it does show potential.

Of course Google does introduce some friction, as Khronos (of OpenGL fame) with Mozilla is already working on an open 3D API for the web. Khronos is considering OpenGL (ES) within ECMAScript, while Google uses their own API defined in JavaScript with the help of the O3D plug-in. The O3D plug-in in turn uses OpenGL or Direct3D to render graphics with the GPU processing power on your screen. Of course a fast JavaScript engine is very welcome in this case, such as V8, Nitro or TraceMonkey.

Best of all is of course that Google seems to be a few steps ahead and the first preview of O3D is available, including developer documentation, plug-ins for Camino, Chrome, Firefox, Safari (Mac only) and Internet Explorer (no Opera?) for Windows, Linux and Mac. There are some hardware requirements, such as a graphics card with DX9 (or higher) support (VS2.0 and PS2.0 support) for Windows or an Intel Mac. A few samples are available to see what's possible on their web site, waiting for you.

Go ahead and explore Google's latest experiment!

What drives your choice of a web browser?

* Performance (JavaScript/Rendering)
* Features (built-in)
* Standards support
* Security record
* Other (please specify)



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