The EU’s decision this week to accept Microsoft’s proposed browser menu means in March European consumers purchasing or upgrading their operating system will be presented a choice of browser. Beyond that, the acceptance means little for enterprises. Businesses in Europe will be able to bypass the menus for enterprise installation and the menu will not extend beyond the European Union. What matters more for Microsoft will be innovating Internet Explorer to enable better web experiences, from security and administration to personalization and productivity.

After 10 years and more than $2 billion in fines, Microsoft needs to put issues of technical transparency and monopolistic practices to rest, especially in the browser market, because:

  • Browsers are everywhere. A decade ago Microsoft did own your browser. But now there are rivals like corporate giants Google and Apple trying to level the field and a nonprofit organization in Mozilla Foundation keeping it honest. Browser choices abound and they are freely available for download. Hence comments like: “People in the EU should be embarassed (sic) about this. Basically it says that they admit that the people are too stupid to download their own browser of choice.”
  • Internet Explorer needs to win with innovation, not just Windows. Everyone expects to get online when they fire up their computer. Along with email and word processing, Web browsers are a killer app in the information workday. The reason Mozilla’s Firefox continues to slowly and steadily increase its market share among general users (nearly 50%) and enterprises (20%) isn’t simply because it’s an alternative; it’s because it offers features and performance that draw users through word of mouth. You may be able to get users by packaging your browser and operating system together, but that won’t keep them. Microsoft must offer more compelling reasons why IE8 becomes the default browser of choice.
  • The browser’s potential remains untapped. We know Google’s not stupid, and there’s a reason it’s developing its own browser and operating system. Calling them both Chrome probably merits a taunting penalty … but, the point is: We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The way the Web, SaaS, cloud, and online apps are changing the way we work, iWorkers and consumers will benefit from more intuitive user interfaces, fast support for complex online computing tasks, and strong security to protect content. We can already see new use cases driving design: the “social networking” browser Flock from Mozilla is intended to keep users in tune with friends and their activities. So in this way, the browser market of the future can be anyone’s to own.