Just days after learning that Firefox has been losing some of its market share, we get news that IBM is donating 50,000 lines of code to Mozilla to make Firefox more usable by people with disabilities.
Given that my mom has been 99 44/100th percent blind since the 1970s, I would like to think that IBM was acting entirely out of altruism.
But I know better.
Even if this wasn't a move aimed explicitly at Microsoft IBM has a lot to gain from more browsing by the disabled. IBM is a big leader in important technologies, like voice, that the disabled rely upon, and creating something that grows demand can't be bad. For anyone.
It does sometimes surprise me how little we've advanced, in terms of computing interfaces, since the Apple II. Except for the mouse, we're still relying on the same typewriters, TVs and tape recorders we did then. Only the form factors (and some of the innards) have changed.
Yet a computer is not a TV, typewriter, and tape recorder. Those are interfaces, methods for inputting and outputting data. The computer is in the middle. The computer is the box.
In Gordon Moore's famous Electronics article, there's an illustration of a futuristic computer being sold in a department store. The clerk holds a box. The customers ooh and aah. There's no keyboard there, no mouse, no storage device, no TV. It's just a box.
If IBM's move reminds us of that, and fires the imagination, it could even be good for Microsoft.