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The coming brower - OS marriage

If you happened to be the boss of a company controlling over 80 percent of PC operating-systems (OS) in the world and you suddenly realised that Web browsers were likely to replace the user interface of operating systems what would you do? Presumably include the browser in your OS or even better include your OS in the browser. Well, in simple terms, that is what Microsoft are planning to do in their battle with Netscape. A demonstration of projected changes in MS's Internet Explorer at yesterday's meeting of the Geneva Chapter of the Internet Society made it very clear that this is the major coming feature for end-users. The move was somewhat predictable as the next step in the so-called "seamless communication" across the network(s). The Netscape-Microsoft battle has just speeded things up considerably. For the user the possibilities are quite exciting - but more about that some other time.

Despite the promise of a good idea, there seems to me to be a flaw in Microsoft's implementation of it: the monolithic, closed nature of their software. Being number one can have its catches. As the operating system has become increasingly complicated and weighty, Microsoft have opted to offer many customisation possibilities within the system. The same goes for their software. The result is even more complexity and a plethora of choices when in fact the user doesn't need a fraction of the possibilities. In addition, development is long, costly and hazardous. As a result, the cost of entering the OS market is almost impossibly high for anybody else.

It is for this reason that the Open Doc concept is so appealing. Initially developed by Apple, the Open Doc open specifications with their "live objects" set out to progressively replace giant monolithic load-the-gigabits-once-hardly-ever-use-any software by independent small objects each with a specific task, each able to communicate with all others, each springing into action only when needed, each compatible with every other object of the same type, each independent of the platform used,... Not only is it a light-weight, flexible solution that is much more adapted to the fast changing times in which we live, but it also potentially throws the doors wide open to smaller creative companies to play their part. The projected generalisation of popular, low-cost computers may well create the conditions necessary for its uptake...

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Created: October 31st, 1996 - Last up-dated: October 31st, 1996