Mozilla's European growth

Mozilla's European growth

Summary: As reported on Wednesday, Firefox has been experiencing strong gains in Europe, reaching an average of 27.8 percent of the European market (versus IE's 66.

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As reported on Wednesday, Firefox has been experiencing strong gains in Europe, reaching an average of 27.8 percent of the European market (versus IE's 66.5%). All well and good, as I'd read reports before of Firefox's strong showing in the region. What didn't make much sense to me, however, were subsequent comments by Tristan Nitot, president of Mozilla Europe, that this would negatively affect Microsoft's hosted application / web services strategy.

Perhaps I have an odd perspective on this. I've long thought Microsoft should push .NET beyond the confines of Windows, either by working more closely with the folks at Mono or else creating a Microsoft-supported .NET runtime that runs on other platforms. I also think Microsoft should emphasize standardization (VC-1 is a good example), make its protocols as open as possible, and work very hard to use existing common standards in its own products.

Times have changed. Once upon a time, when computing was the exclusive domain of experts tending large water-cooled beasts using cryptic commands through monochromatic terminals, closed systems were somewhat acceptable. The effect was fairly confined to a very narrow business scope, and though vendor lock-in might be a nuisance, it wasn't something with which most people had to contend regularly.

These days, computing insinuates every aspect of our daily lives. We store our photos on them, create reams of documents - business related or otherwise - on them, store our home movies on them (making them available throughout our home), watch our television through them (set-top boxes) or we carry them on our person as cell phones, media players, or some other task specific device.   The number of ways computing products are used continues to proliferate.

The increased importance of our computing infrastructure means more transparency is demanded. That means that past efforts to bind consumers to a particular product category, however common, are more likely to meet resistance, which would be the fact irrespective of whether there were large groups of free software advocates agitating for open systems.

Now, as regular readers will well know, being "open" to my mind doesn't require being open source (though proprietary companies would do well to release a lot more source code for their products than they do...I just don't think they have to release all of it). This is a nod towards the innovation incentives created as a result of the profits generated through proprietary software. Just as an all-public school system is not as good as a public school system that is forced to compete at some level with private schools (or each other), the opposing tension of proprietary and open source software forces both sides to paddle faster, raising the technology bar for both.

Given that understanding, it is my belief that the only way a Microsoft web strategy would make any sense is if it was designed, from the start, to work cross browser and cross-platform. Granted, the likelihood that that will happen certainly goes up with a Mozilla boasting credible market share, but irrespective of that, it should be part of Microsoft's strategy from the outset. Our SIP should be standard SIP, our RTP / RTSP / RTCP implementations should would with most RTP libraries, and our web applications should be designed to work with most conformant web browsers.  That is appealing in its own right, and is another way to attract developers alongside great development tools and technologies.

That doesn't mean that Microsoft is confined to current W3C web technologies. It just means that Microsoft's Web 2.0 efforts need to be untertaken with cross-platform support in mind. Fortunately, that seems to be Microsoft's approach with Silverlight, which has intentions of Mozilla / Firefox support from day 1. All that remains is for Microsoft to be explicit about its intentions to support silverlight on Linux. I hope that happens soon.

Closed systems simply make no sense anymore, particularly for a company as large and dominant as Microsoft. Such companies should go out of their way to appear open. That way, their dominance is viewed with less concern.

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Software

John Carroll

About John Carroll

John Carroll has delivered his opinion on ZDNet since the last millennium. Since May 2008, he is no longer a Microsoft employee. He is currently working at a unified messaging-related startup.

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32 comments
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  • John, you know full well that MS will NEVER do what is needed to make

    Silverlight/.net work EQUALLY well on alternative platforms. We also have no guarantee that they won't pull the rug out from underneath us at some future date, even if it starts out working fairly well. So, NO, almost no web sites in Europe will take the MS bait, and use MS technologies to build web sites, given the nearly 30% FireFox usage. There will be plenty of options that are guaranteed to work equally well on all platforms. Most will stay with AJAX for right now and wait for the other technologies to shake out.

    So, yes, 30% Alternate browser usage in Europe DOES throw a monkey wrench in Microsoft's ability to foist MS proprietary technology on us.
    DonnieBoy
    • If I thought that...

      ...I wouldn't say it in my blog.
      John Carroll
  • If use of Windows has been and remains over 90%...

    ... and the success of Vista has confirmed the continued acceptance of Windows and if even a number of prominent open source advocates have written off the desktop and no open source company is willing to invest heavily to compete and if Apple has announced its future direction by removing the word Computer from the company name, why, given all that, should Microsoft assume that the situation in this part of the IT market should be less favorable?

    The fact that there are now a billion Microsoft users does not mean that computing is so widepread that Microsoft should think of the market as changing. Instead, Microsoft should be planning for how to obtain the next one billion users and the one billion after that.

    And then, if some standards are set by Microsoft competitors and philosophical antagonists and if alternate products have as part of their stated goals harm to Microsoft's business even without profit to their handlers, and if Microsoft has the intention of competing with some companies in markets which those other companies had dominated, why should Microsoft be so responsive as to do damage to themselves?

    Helping a competitor or an enemy is rarely a successful business strategy.


    Microsoft is in business to make money, and has succeeded, perhaps more than any other company since Standard Oil. Looking for a change to recognition of loss of what the company now has is pessimism, and not a recipe for success.
    Anton Philidor
    • Good comparison........

      Because Standard oil was also found guilty of being a monopoly, and broken up.

      So should Microsoft.
      linux for me
      • Yes, poor Exxon, only a shadow...

        ... of its former self. The company had been ESSO, another clever play on S O.

        Exxon is, I believe, the world's largest corporation.


        For information, the Appeals Court which looked at the Microsoft case tossed out the break-up remedy in part because Judge Jackson had ignored legal forms in setting it (probably expecting to be over-ruled), in part because the Judges disapproved of his conduct in general, and in part, they hinted, because a break-up seemed mistaken.

        A break-up is appropriate in only a few situations, and particularly not when the company has grown to a monopoly rather than buying one by taking over competitors.

        Rockefeller built Standard Oil by buying up the competition with Standard stock and borrowed money.

        So a break-up is a lost hope.


        Also, it's not illegal to be a monopoly in the US. But monopolies are subject to laws applicable only to them.

        A Judge announces one day that a company has a monopoly. Then he announces that actions the company had taken years before were illegal because they were done by a monopoly.

        This seems a fault in the legal system.
        Anton Philidor
    • I think you misunderstand

      [i]Helping a competitor or an enemy is rarely a successful business strategy.[/i]

      If you are going to use SIP or RTP or "name your protocol here," support it in a standard fashion. That does NOT preclude you from making extensions, just so long as those extensions are well documented.

      I really so no place for MMS (Microsoft's proprietary media protocol) as an example, at least not in the modern era. If they want to take the web and interoperability seriously, then every protocol Microsoft users should either be standard, or documented so that others can use it.

      That's the way things have to be in a world where computing is as fundamental as phones of yore.
      John Carroll
      • Remember the network effect.

        Windows dominates the operating system market. Third parties write primarily for Windows. The availability of many applications helps sell more copies of Windows.
        A benign cycle for Microsoft.

        But you wrote:

        "Once upon a time, when computing was the exclusive domain of experts tending large water-cooled beasts using cryptic commands through monochromatic terminals, closed systems were somewhat acceptable. The effect was fairly confined to a very narrow business scope, and though vendor lock-in might be a nuisance, it wasn?t something with which most people had to contend regularly."

        Vendor lock-in?
        Microsoft provided unique benefits to both consumers and sellers of other software.

        And Microsoft had a substantial impact on breaking computing away from the ownership of experts. That's why I like the comparison to Standard Oil. Took a chaotic economic activity and helped it achieve its potential.

        Even Judge Jackson had to sit and listen to unquestioned testimony that argued the network effect helped computing. The issue is not then, but now.

        Has computing outgrown the Microsoft network effect?

        Microsoft hopes not, and keeps advancing its capabilities (for third-party programmers) and functionality in an attempt to make Windows uniquely valuable.

        For Microsoft to encourage its unique advantages to appear in other software would be self-destructive. And, as you may have noticed, that's an attrivute of Microsoft competitors rather than your employer.



        That said, there are certain basic functionalities, like that supplied by TCP/IP, which cannot provide an advantage, and which can be made available to all.

        There are also aspects of Microsoft's work, like formats, that have to be available to third parties to make the network effect work. If every competitor in the office suite market builds on Microsoft formats (because they are open), then competition is based on which software can make best use of Microsoft formats.
        You know which company wins that competition.



        If you think about Microsoft as in the business of maximizing profits, you'll understand the company's plans better, I expect.
        Anton Philidor
    • "the success of Vista" (massively diverting from topic)

      Vista must have been a very modest success, since XP is still outselling it.

      http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,134908-page,1/article.html

      Now, that signals, at least to me that consumers "confirmed the continued acceptance of Windows" XP and are only grudgingly going to accept the Vista forced major upgrade.

      Some would argue that Microsoft is fighting their installed base, however, I'd argue that Microsoft is fighting more. They're fighting the same battle as Sony fights with the PS3, the hardware to gain exceptional advantage from Vista is too darned, expensive. And there's no cool Vista only software. XP is "good enough".

      The question is: How high a "price cut" (broadly interpreted: could be any sort of push/pull) will Microsoft need to make?
      John Le'Brecage
      • Granted we're only talking 22 percent...

        I roll eyes and say, I hit Submit before I finished editing. Sentence should read:

        "Granted we're only talking 22%, but for them XP is "good enough" - Vista's uptick is comparable to the replacement rate of hardware."

        More fair that way, don't you think?
        John Le'Brecage
      • Microsoft's Windows profits increased.

        That to me means that the sum total of Vista and XP sales must be greater than total XP sales had been. And though some versions of Vista have a higher cost than some versions of XP, that's invisible to the hardware purchasing public. Who are looking at hardware prices which continue to decline despite the low markup in mass market machines.

        So, in addition to surprisingly sturdy demand for XP, there must also be new demand created by Vista.

        That makes Vista a success and Microsoft even more successful. Seemed impossible, but came true.
        Anton Philidor
        • Except that...

          Except that the total sales for both year on have not exceeded the previous year's sales for XP alone, which makes Vista uptake less than XP once XP sales are deductred from the aggregate total. Granted, still profitable for Microsoft since Vista editions and XP editions are not comparably priced. If Vista is a success, compared to XP, it is at best a lukewarm success or a lukewarm failure.

          The problem is the same as that for the PS-3. Vista is a luxury OS running on luxury hardware, and the uptake is not as expected as a result.
          John Le'Brecage
          • Expected.

            Not everyone is able to change from an older to a newer operating system immediately. So Microsoft has continued to offer older systems for a time. In this case, XP sales are authorized until January, 2008.

            So it seems appropriate to compare Vista + XP sales to XP sales last year, and find a 13% increase. More people are buying. Some are, I suspect, buying Vista devices and installing XP. So trying to distinguish Vista from the Vista + XP mix would not be easy. Simplest to count the money.

            The blazing, unexampled success of Vista (sometimes I use words like those because I have a chance to use words like those ;-) ) demonstrates Microsoft's correct decision to have versions of Vista, including Home Basic for older hardware. And the fact that the hardware requirements are not so severe as some have described them. And the further fact that people are willing to pay more for versions of Vista with even more functionality and capabilities.

            The PS-3 has the problem that people have to expend cash for that product specifically. Vista, which is not very expensive to OEMs, has the advanatge of being invisible in price to most buyers.



            Some people assert that Microsoft is more a marketing company than a software company. And some of those are surprised when Microsoft markets successfully.

            Give 'em credit for something...
            Anton Philidor
        • Good thing it's invisible

          Considering how much hardware costs have dropped over the years and how much MS's software has increased over the years, the buying public would probably be quite irate if they new the actual percentage cost of that OS for their machine. (This is probably biting into the upgrade market.)
          Robert Crocker
    • Re: If use of Windows has been and remains over 90%...

      [i]Microsoft is in business to make money, and has succeeded, perhaps more than any other company since Standard Oil.[/i]

      Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him?


      :)
      none none
    • Anton, seriously......

      ......what are you talking about.

      You've got your tongue so far up Microsofts butt that I can't hear a word you're saying.....

      <b>"part of their stated goals harm to Microsoft's business even without profit"</b>

      That's like saying <b>"the soupkitchens feeding the poor and homeless are actively working to harm McDonalds business"</b>

      Are you so singleminded that you can not see the good in creating something for the benefit of all, forfeiting profit?

      It's so blatantly obvious that you are an employee of Microsoft or a close partner.
      thungurknifur
      • One good of profit...

        ... is that it allows companies to pay staff. Those employees often find good use for monies received by spending it on raising families and contributing to econmomic activity in other ways.

        For some, that's a moral evil which must be stamped out, in accordance with a view of the purity of software.

        If plans work properly, everyone working for software companies will spend their evenings developing software that destroys the business of their own or someone else's employer. And, if the timing is right, this circular firing squad will put 10's of thousands out of work simulataneously, and the world will be a better place.

        True, sonme people will continue to work for companies not in the software business, adjusting the freely available software for local use. But as the freely available software becomes more sophisticated and widespread, fewer and fewer people will need to be hired at lower and lower salaries, until the pain of knowing that people making a living from software has been minimized.

        Yes, that's very unselfish. And an attempt to do equal damage to everyone working on software, so it's egalitarian too.

        Ah software, the hobby that turned into a major industry. That must be corrected!!
        Anton Philidor
        • It's called PROGRESS and it needs no correction.

          Your relentless attempt to equate moral inferiority to those that contribute to F/OSS software is commendable, yet futile. The contributors are not forcing anyone to use their software and therefore cannot be held liable to such accusations, however ridiculous they may be. Corporations which choose to use F/OSS in lieu of costly proprietary do so because it fulfills a need at a lower cost. There is nothing immoral about this. Instead they are required by their stock holders to do so. Consumers who choose to use F/OSS in lieu of costly proprietary software do so again because it fulfills a need at a lower cost. This is also morally justified because it benefits the consumer and his family. You seem to be asking for some type of corporate welfare. Interesting.
          thelemite
          • Glad we agree that corporate profits...

            ... can have a beneficial purpose, though I'm disappointed that you mentioned not employees, but shareholders. Employees receive salaries from companies. Shareholders are not affected by profits unless dividends are increased or the Wall Street commentators use them as a reason to tell their followers to buy the stock, even at a higher price.

            A corportaion which finds a good use for open source software and is able to increase profits thereby is not behaving unexpectedly. And if the corporation uses open source to reduce the number of staff, that, too, is the normal course of business.

            So someone working on an open source project whose product is likely to cause layoffs knows that the effect of his work will, in the normal course of business, be loss of employment for people like himself. And he may know - if it's true - that there is no progress, no advance in productivity or effectiveness as a result of use of his work. The harm is the most important, maybe even the only result of his effort.

            And if he can take satisfaction in that damage, then he can feel a sense of accomplishment.
            Anton Philidor
          • Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, no?

            [i]So someone working on an open source project whose product is likely to cause layoffs knows that the effect of his work will, in the normal course of business, be loss of employment for people like himself.[/i]

            First of all there is no way one could "know" to what extent, if any, their contribution would have on loss of employment for others. What is the formula? Does 20 hours of contribution equate to the loss of 1/2 FTE at a shrink wrapped proprietary software company? 1/10 FTE? 1/10000 FTE??? Which is it? Surely it matters from your moral standpoint, no? Furthermore, the benefits to CONSUMERS far outweighs the harm to a few developers, no?

            [i]And he may know - if it's true - that there is no progress, no advance in productivity or effectiveness as a result of use of his work. The harm is the most important, maybe even the only result of his effort.[/i]

            By definition his contribution would have to be overall more effecient or it wouldn't be used in the first place, no? Why use something if there's another tool is more effective or productive?

            [i]And if he can take satisfaction in that damage, then he can feel a sense of accomplishment.[/i]

            Again, he's not forcing anyone to use his software and therefore has no moral obligations, no?
            thelemite
          • Remuneration for work is good for the Many not just the Few

            This is a very interesting argument. I would tend to agree with most of what Anton has said. I suppose it depends on whither you believe in consumer democracy as the ?true? democracy or in the right of a professional/worker to be remunerated for their effort.

            There are parallels here with what supermarkets/consumers are doing to farmers, pushing down the amounts paid for produce to the level where the farmer can no longer afford a decent standard of living with the result that many will sell up and leave the land. As the majority of people out there are workers/professionals firstly and only after they have been remunerated for their work can they become consumers and or shareholders. As a society we need to dispense the notion of consumer democracy as being good for society as a whole or the standard of living for the workers/professionals masses is going to drop even further. Ironically I don?t think that was the idea behind FOSS software but its greatest strength in the market is in reducing the bottom line.

            Only computer professionals in this case specifically software engineers/programmers would be gullible enough to give the market the tools to put them out of work for no cost. Microsoft like most major corporations has engaged in some reprehensible practices but it still allows many people to make a living from software development/computer programming at various different levels. We have a good rule in business over here that being ?always leave a pound in it for the next man?. As a former software engineer I don?t see the level of opportunity (for remuneration) in the FOSS model as in the proprietary. Maybe the FOSS business model has not been explained to me correctly or is it more of a religious movement which will be used by other corporations against the software industry?
            trevorhunter@...