Mozilla slams Microsoft over Windows 10’s default browser switcheroo

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft learns R95 billion math lesson in its Nokia blunder.

CHRIS BEARD, Mozilla’s fur-free CEO, has sent Microsoft’s Satya Nadella an open letter in which he criticises his peer for Windows 10 and the decision to automatically update systems. He said that it sends technology backwards, which must be the equivalent of a ‘your mum’ insult for the million dollar technology industry CEO community.

Considering that the deal included $1.5 billion in cash, the write-off means Microsoft now values a business that once controlled 41 percent of the global handset market at just a small fraction of the purchase price. Beard reminded Nadella that a previous attempt to get Microsoft to follow the advice of a market-disrupting rival fell on deaf ears, which is why Mozilla is repeating its warning. “I am writing to you about a very disturbing aspect of Windows 10. Specifically, that the update experience appears to have been designed to throw away the choice your customers have made about the internet experience they want, and replace it with the internet experience Microsoft wants them to have,” he said. “When we first saw the Windows 10 upgrade experience that strips users of their choice by effectively overriding existing user preferences for the browser and other apps, we reached out to your team to discuss this issue.

It was only the third loss in its history as a public company. “If you were talking about any other industry, this would be considered a catastrophe that’s the equivalent to a natural disaster,” said Horace Dediu, who spent eight years at Nokia during its heyday and is now at the San Francisco research firm Clayton Christensen Institute, which studies disruptive technologies. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in any meaningful progress, hence this letter.” The letter follows on the same theme, but adds an element of superiority. This being the technology business, Microsoft’s still relatively new chief executive, Satya Nadella, gets credit for swiftly confronting reality and taking the hit to earnings. Beard said that Microsoft’s actions do not matter to Mozilla just because it runs a competing browser, but that they could have a detrimental effect on the millions of people who use Windows. “These changes aren’t unsettling to us because we’re the organisation that makes Firefox. They are unsettling because there are millions of users who love Windows and who are having their choices ignored,” he added. “It should be easier for people to assert new choices and preferences, not just for other Microsoft products, through the default settings, APIs and user interfaces.

Microsoft agreed to ship a version of Windows 7 with a “browser ballot” that allowed users to select which browser they wanted during the OS installation process. So proud, in fact, that they automatically set it as your default browser, despite claiming to retain all your settings and preferences when you upgrade. Amazon wrote off an even more modest $170 million in October, acknowledging that its Fire phone was a flop. “We try to learn from everything we do as we launch new opportunities,” said Amazon’s chief financial officer at the time, Thomas J. But far more was at stake for Microsoft than for Google or Amazon, since the main point of the Nokia deal was to support Microsoft’s Windows operating system, which, in turn, was a crucial element in Microsoft’s “mobile first” strategy. Now both handset operating systems and hardware are pretty much global duopolies, with Google and Apple dominating software and Samsung and Apple dominating hardware.

Now, while that would enable you to download an update faster, that does mean that you’ll be wasting your data, uploading files to other people trying to download the updates. Microsoft’s “grand scheme was to have a single platform that ran on PCs, laptops, tablets and phones, and to be able to sell applications that run Windows,” said Nicholas Economides, an economics professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University who specializes in network economics and electronic commerce. “That failed.” Dediu said it was hard to put all the blame on Microsoft, since so many others had met a similar fate. “Most people didn’t believe that such a catastrophe could occur this fast,” he said. Microsoft “just couldn’t imagine that a company that was once as strong and dominant as Nokia could have virtually no value.” He compared the swift rise of Apple and the withering fortunes of Nokia, BlackBerry and other once-thriving manufacturers to the arrival of an infectious virus. “We tend to think the strong will survive,” Dediu said. “But a virus is a very small thing that kills big things.” He continued: “It’s easy to say Microsoft was foolish and blame the chief executive. You can disable it, but you’re going to have to open your Windows Update settings menu, click on “Advanced Options” and then “Choose how updates are received.’

When I asked Microsoft what it had gotten for its money, its spokesman, Shaw, agreed that the speed of the changes in the industry had taken the company by surprise. “Everything always looks different with the benefit of hindsight,” he said. In an email to employees this month explaining the shift, Nadella said, “We are moving from a strategy to grow a stand-alone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem.” Shaw stressed that Microsoft would continue to manufacture Windows phones and other products, and that it would introduce a new line of Lumia phones this fall. But they will be differentiated products tailored to narrower market segments, like business customers concerned about security. “One thing we learned is that if we offer differentiated products that focus on the things we do best, those products do well,” Shaw said. “Instead of just thinking about our products running on our devices, we’re thinking about how we reach people, no matter what device they’re using. Our goal is to bring them home to Windows, where they’ll have a better, differentiated experience.” Perhaps most important, Shaw said Microsoft recognized a pressing need to innovate: “If you miss the first wave, you have to hang on and then drive or anticipate the next wave.

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