Why Microsoft Cares That You Use Internet Explorer

Kill it, you rabid little fox! Kill it till it's dead!
Earlier this week, the European Union dropped antitrust charges against Microsoft after the software giant agreed to offer Windows users a choice of 12 different browsers.

If you're like me (i.e. you can make a computer crash just by looking at it), you probably wondered just why the hell Microsoft so stubbornly resisted offering non-Internet Explorer options for so long (the suit has been playing out for the past decade) and at such a high cost (they've already paid the EU $2.4 billion in fines thus far) for a service they provide for free (you don't pay a dime to use IE, not that you would).

Thankfully, Slate has your answer.

In an Explainer piece, Brian Palmer says the reason Microsoft fought so hard to keep IE as the only browser option is because it made it easier to control the rest of your computer time.

By hooking you on its other products. Computer giants like Microsoft and Google use their free browsers to sculpt your computing habits to their advantage. Microsoft wants your Internet use to be highly integrated with your personal computer's operating system and other software, which they probably manufacture. (In a 1997 op-ed opposing the U.S. antitrust action, Bill Gates used the word integrated seven times.) Google's Chrome, in contrast, is customized to handle robust Web-based applications, in the hopes that one day you'll use the Google-dominated Internet for all your computing needs.
So while some companies like Mozilla actually profit from their browsers, Microsoft accepts IE as a loss leader because it means money for them on the back end. But does that equation actually work out? Palmer says we have no way of knowing.
To this day, Microsoft allocates resources for development and maintenance of Internet Explorer with very little idea of the product's actual financial value.
In related news, last week I sent my grandma a holiday card the same day I tried to e-mail her using IE. She got the card today. She's still waiting on the e-mail.
comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow