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Internet Explorer Ruling is Old News Anyway September 27, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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The European Union antitrust head has announced that Microsoft is to be charged with failing to follow a ruling from 2009 related to their failure to offer a selection of web browsers.

This ruling is centred on the ability of Microsoft to bundle their Internet Explorer system with Windows, the web browser that for many years was the dominant choice for browsing the web.

But this ruling feels like old news, even though it was just announced this week.

Internet Explorer is no longer the dominant product for web browsing.

The crown now belongs to Google with their Chrome system and Firefox from the Mozilla Foundation is close on the heels of Internet Explorer. In fact if you now add together Chrome and Firefox, they are used for almost half of all Internet web browsing. Internet Explorer retains just over 23%, but this figure is dropping.

The EU may be throwing their legal muscle at Microsoft, but the market has moved on anyway. Internet Explorer became a bloated, slow product that was full of bugs and subject to endless virus attacks. Google offered a light, very fast product with Chrome and users switched in droves.

Now the browser has become more than just a browser anyway, with Chrome offering a gateway to all the services offered by Google, further locking in users and preventing them from seeking out an alternative.

Microsoft can only wish they spent more time focused on improving the product and letting users decide on the best tool for web browsing. Now they are suffering the irony of being fined by an antitrust body as their product is losing market share to the competition.

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Photo by Varawat Prasarnkiat licensed under Creative Commons

New domains for a new Internet June 14, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) is the organisation that organises the Internet – assigning the domain names we all know, such as .com and .org.

They just announced plans to create many new domains and asked organisations to submit requests for new suggested domains. Big tech firms like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have all asked for new domain names, but what is interesting to see is that even non-tech firms like Land Rover have made requests for domains such as .landrover.

There is a concern that this process has commercialised the control of the Internet itself. Of course, brands and big commercial companies like Amazon and Google dominate the Internet as we know it, but it is also a resource that can be freely used just for the exchange of information.

With brands spending over £100,000 just to apply for the right to create a new domain it means that only those with deep pockets can guide the direction of the Internet and is that really the way we should be taking it?

The US government still takes a keen interest in the overall governance of the Internet and all the key organisations like Icaan are still based in the US, but perhaps it is time for a supranational body to be created – so the future of the Internet is not just auctioned to the highest bidder.

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Photo by JW Sherman licensed under Creative Commons

Iceland goes Open Source March 21, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, IT Services, Software.
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The Open Source software movement has always suffered an image problem because people brought up to respect copyright and trademarks struggle to understand the concept of how intellectual property can be free.

Advocates of Open Source argue that free generally means freedom rather than free of cost – the software itself may be free, but users will always need to pay for installation, maintenance, upgrades and customisations. It is never entirely free.

Open source has long been in the mainstream for those who specify and design technology systems. WordPress is a free content management system – often used for blogs – and yet brands like CNN, Reuters, Sony, VW, and UPS use it as the basic framework for their websites.

But there are also Open Source operating systems and office tools – replacing the need for licensed products such as Microsoft Windows and Office… Excel and Word for example. These have not really taken off in the enterprise because everyone works using those formats – you want to use Word and be able to send a document to anyone else.

But if the Open Source tools can recognise those file formats and work in just the same way then perhaps the end is in sight for expensive licenses in the enterprise? The government of Iceland certainly thinks so. As a cost-cutting move they have just ordered all public bodies to ditch licensed products from companies like Microsoft and Oracle and to migrate to free solutions instead.

Iceland needs to save cash, but if an entire government can plan for a migration across all departments with just a one-year time frame for migration then just imagine what most companies could achieve too…

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  Photo by Álfheiður Magnúsdóttir licensed under Creative Commons

Staying alive – retaining innovation in IT September 22, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Internet, IT Services, Software.
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The history of information technology is littered with the names of companies that were once great and fell on hard times. Whatever happened to Imagine Software, Wang, Pr1me, Commodore, and many others?

Of course one of the greatest success stories in IT, and possibly in any business environment, is Microsoft. They grew from small roots, and a fortunate licensing deal to install their operating system on IBM PCs, and the rest is history. Now, almost all new PC-based computers come with Windows pre-installed.

But the world is changing. Microsoft has been talking publicly about their ideas for Windows 8 and it does not seem clear whether the world is listening any longer.

Almost 4m people in the UK use a tablet-based device and the dominant operating systems are from Apple and Google – with their Android system that is also becoming the key smart-phone operating system.

It would be wrong to suggest that Microsoft is finished because they don’t seem to be able to compete in the tablet and telephone market, but the entire computing market is changing. For years Microsoft has enjoyed the twin cash cows of Windows and their Office platform of office automation software – Word, Excel, and so on.

Windows is clearly becoming less relevant and valuable, but so too is the shrink-wrapped software market. Office automation tools are available free, in the cloud, from people like Google and at a low cost from other suppliers.

How do once dominant companies react to such changes in the market? If anyone can do it then Microsoft can. They have cash, intelligent people, and an attitude that focuses on innovation.

But do they have the will to entirely change the company? One only has to look at a company like Nokia to see that ignoring a changing technology market can bring industry giants to their knees. For the sake of the industry, let’s hope that Windows 8 really is as revolutionary as the Microsoft bosses suggest.
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