Bundled Firefox not the "right outcome"

February 10, 2009 | 10:11

Tags: #browser #fennec #firefox #monopoly #opera-mini #opera-mobile

Companies: #eu #microsoft #mozilla #mozilla-foundation #opera

The Mozilla Foundation's Mike Connor has declared that he doesn't feel forcing Microsoft to bundle Firefox as an alternative with Windows is “the right outcome” of an EU ruling that Microsoft has been abusing its position as a software monopoly.

Speaking in an interview with PC Pro, Connor declared that forcing Microsoft to include other browsers as a choice at installation time was “not the right outcome” of the EU's investigation into the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows, and that there was “no good UI” that would allow such a choice without confusing users.

The case against the software giant's bundling practices was brought to the EU's attention by browser specialist Opera – but Connor believes that the whole argument is a waste of time. Attacking Opera's statements that competition is stifled by the practice of software bundling, Connor stated that “Opera [was] asserting something that's provably false,” and that he didn't know how the company could make the claim that bundling has a direct affect on market share “with a straight face.

In that, he may have a point: while Opera's share of the worldwide browser market might be stagnating at the 0.7 percent mark, Firefox's share has surpassed 20 percent and is steadily growing – despite the package not being bundled on either of the 'mainstream' retail-level operating systems, MacOS and Windows. Connor believes that the secret to market share lies not in forcing alternatives to be bundled at the OS level, but in being “perceptibly better” than the competition – thus increasing awareness of the alternatives.

When asked his opinion on why Opera has such a small chunk of the browser market, Connor claimed that the browser was “a little too heavy, it's a geeky browser. Opera's problem is that it works, but doesn't stay out of the way. There's a little too much to distract you from the content.

Despite this rather scathing review of the competition, Connor did admit that the browser has “cleaned up” its interface in recent times and had nothing but praise for its mobile incarnations, Opera Mini and Opera Mobile – despite plans for a mobile version of Firefox codenamed Fennec that would compete directly with Opera on yet another front.

Do you think that Connor is wrong when he claims that bundling doesn't lead to increased market share, or would offering multiple browsers at OS installation time just confuse users into making a bad decision? Are his comments about Opera spot-on, or gloating from a bad winner? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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