Innovation On Demand

Matt Ranlett
says "Don't be too quick to knock Microsoft - they sat back on the IE front after they totally killed Netscape and concentrated on other areas. Now that Google and FireFox showed Microsoft that there are still growth areas out there on the internet where consumers are concerned, expect to see lots of action on that front.".

But that's the problem!

Software gets better when it's maker is working on it.

If it's maker isn't working it, it doesn't get any better.

Competition ensures that the folks responsible for all the competing products are going to keep working on them.

Microsoft killed the competition in the browser arena, and then did what I didn't expect them to do: They sat back and enjoyed their market leadership, letting their product stagnate. It's the right business decision, perhaps, but from the perspective of software innovation, it's the perfect argument for people to use against Microsoft. Once they dominate a market, if they do what they did with Internet Explorer, innovation will end!

We lost 4 years of browser innovation. Now that Firefox is proving to be real competition (matching IE in almost every way, and besting it in some), sure we'll see Microsoft wake up and try to stop that... but if it does, and the Firefox guys all just give up and go home (which isn't going to happen, of course), will we see 4 more years of no new development?

Office is a counter-example. They own the office suite market, but those guys keep finding ways to improve the product. Office 2003 was a good upgrade from Office 2000, and they didnt' have any serious competition chasing them.

So who knows. I'm expecting Microsoft to do something interesting with IE7. If they just release what Bill talked about (a more secure IE6) then it'll be pretty darn obvious they were just sitting on the browser for 4 years. If they surprise us and release something cool, well maybe it was worth the wait. Guess we'll find out in a few months.