Monday, November 17, 2008

The Browser is not an OS. MYTH EXPOSED!!!!

The browser is not an operating system. It is a user-friendly way to use a network of resources. Users like graphical interfaces, hence the OS and browser do whatever they can to hide commands and code from customers. The OS has a tough job of things, and the browser somewhat easier, as hiding HTML was its brief. 

Smart people in technology know this, and have not taken their eyes off of the OS ball. OS X is belle now, with Vista the underwhelming, insubstanial celebutante. Linux and XP play wallflowers, one about to graduate into distant, unsupported irrelevance, the other a transfer student with an ill-fitting suit.

The Acid3 tests,  browser battles, and so on, get so much more attention than the war for OS supremacy. Windows 7 is going to be sold into a fragmented market for personal computing platforms, very different than the tee-ball Microsoft could have played to get its XP people onto Vista three years ago. Once IE doesn't run on a majority of network users' machines, then the browser gets more interesting again. For now, it is a spendy and theoretical strategic "space race" between Mozilla, Opera, WebKit and Microsoft. 

If you go back through that exhaustive list, you'll note there is only one vertically integrated player who owns the OS and the browser. 

Being an ex-standard, Microsoft can't see the forest for the trees, and will fruitlessly jab at the "browser market" or "search market" with its OS/IE stick, and it might get lucky and keep half of the market. That would be the commoditized, shrinking, "business" or ex-WinTel market, but it counts anyway. I am not saying that it isn't worth keeping, either. One can drive a lot of business from that pedestal. 

If Microsoft would smarten up and buy itself a real cellphone competitor (like, say, RIM and Sprint/Nextel) I might get worried. Instead, they want Yahoo? They don't need a bigger piece of some puzzle, they need to start using Windows like a club, like they used to. Blackberry and Win7 exclusivity would be more like it.

Google has no OS, and for all the posturing about browsers, you still need one. Apple has an OS, and has let the browser go into the wild world of open source. Google picked them so I'm going to give this pair the best shot at "winning." Winning what I am not sure, but at least the internet is harder to tackle into proprietary-dom when at least one major player does best on an open web. So Google and Apple, even if they eventually get in a tiff, are well-positioned.

Opera and Mozilla have browsers but no OS. I dearly love both, especially the latter, for all they did when I was a Mac user on OS 9, and the windows of opportunity for my poor, poor Apple were all but closed up. Now things have changed, and I am not sure that being an application vendor in a space where the app went free/subsidized a decade ago is a good position. I am even less sure I would want to fight Apple/Google and Microsoft. Could a non-profit justify itself as an open browser alternative? Sure.

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