Microsoft hooked the rotting corpse of Netscape to a drip feed today by almost - shock, horror - agreeing with a court that said it had done Bad Things. The company statement simply repeats what the appeals court said rather than saying the appeals court was right, but a whole bunch of stuff it had previously insisted was non-negotiable and technically impossible is now going to roll with XP.
And it'll apply to previous operating systems, not that previous operating systems will survive much beyond December, if Redmond has its way. Today's statement essentially (and cynically) splits Internet Explorer out from Windows again. Exquisitely, you'll recall, the very appeals court that Microsoft is now doing obeisance to is the one that ruled that Microsoft did have the right to integrate IE with Windows. If Microsoft hadn't insisted that it could do this very thing, the DoJ antitrust action might very well not have hit it with quite the enraged velocity it did. This is a very, very weird legal action, and it's getting weirder.
In today's statement Microsoft says: " The appeals court ruled that certain provisions in Microsoft's licenses with PC manufacturers impaired the distribution of third-party Web browsers.[note total absence of agreement or disagreement - it's simply an acceptance that it's a fact the court said this] Microsoft will now provide PC manufacturers with the following new flexibility:
"PC manufacturers will have the option to remove the Start menu entries and icons that provide end users with access to the Internet Explorer components of the operating system. Microsoft will include Internet Explorer in the Add/Remove programs feature in Windows XP.
So the insistence that IE is part of the total Windows Experience, and that the desktop and OOBE (out of box experience) is copyright MS is gone. The ability to remove IE, which was added by 98lite.net as soon as MS subtracted it, demonstrates what 98lite.net demonstrated before, that it was all a matter of packaging.
"PC manufacturers will have the option to remove the Start menu entries and icons that provide end users with access to Internet Explorer from previous versions of Windows, including Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows Me.
PC manufacturers will retain the option of putting icons directly onto the Windows desktop. Based on extensive customer usability studies, Microsoft had designed Windows XP to ship with a clean desktop and improved Start menu, but PC manufacturers will now have the option of continuing to place icons on the Windows desktop if they want to.
Consumers will be able to use the Add-Remove Programs feature in Windows XP to remove end-user access to the Internet Explorer components of the operating system. Microsoft has always made it easy for consumers to delete the icons for Internet Explorer, but will now offer consumers this additional option in Windows XP."
As regards IE removal, it's more of the same. The ability to shove icons onto the desktop isn't necessarily a plus for consumers, because from the point of view of the OEMs these are, effectively, advertising. But weirdly, considering the "clean desktop" XP theory, Office XP automatically installs an icon on, er, the desktop. Note also that there is no suggestion that OEMs can ship systems with IE pre-removed (that's up to consumers), and that there's no mention of start menu priorities (as shipped in the beta, Microsoft products, IE included, are prominently displayed).
So it's a negotiating bid, and there's less to it than meets the eye. But Ed Felten will no doubt be heartened to hear he was right, and the IE and Windows code can be disentangled after all. And if it had happened a couple of years ago, then all of this might not have happened, and Netscape might still be an independent company pitching for business around its browser. But today, for some reason, the drip feed doesn't seem to be reviving the corpse... ®
As a public service, The Register feels it useful to shove the ludicrous supporting PR puff from notorious Microsoft narks below. Watch out for these guys, and be careful about buying their hardware:
Puff slot begins:
Computer industry leaders today underscored the importance of the launch of Windows XP to the PC industry and consumers.
"We're very excited about the possibilities that Windows XP delivers to our customers," said Ted Waitt, co-founder and CEO of Gateway. "With this new flexibility, we're looking forward to taking Windows XP to the next level, tailoring technology to meet our customers' needs."
"Windows XP is an incredible step forward for end users and partners, unlocking the possibilities of the digital world," said Jim Allchin, group vice president for platforms at Microsoft. "Windows XP provides new opportunities for companies throughout the hardware and software industries, especially PC manufacturers that have worked closely with us to create the best experience for customers."
"We're excited about Windows XP and the positive impact it will have on our industry. As a strong partner for more than 15 years, Compaq has worked closely with Microsoft throughout the extensive development of Windows XP," said Mike Larson, senior vice president and general manager of the Access Business Group at Compaq. "We are setting a new standard for simple, dependable and efficient computing."
"Dell is excited about delivering Windows XP later this year," said Jim Totton, vice president of software for the Consumer Products Group at Dell. "Dell is always interested in what's best for its customers, and the new levels of performance, ease of use and customization will combine for a great personal computing experience."
(That's enough rentaquotes from stooges - Ed)