Firefox 3.0 appears today. Downloads will set a new record as the internet slows to a crawl. And already Firefox 3.0 is a champ. PC Magazine has declared it their choice for best browser. (I thought the download is not available at 1:00 Pacific, 4:00 Eastern, but the internet is already moving glacially.)
Firefox is proof that the Microsoft model is broken. Steve Ballmer becomes the undisputed leader of the corporation this summer and this tells us that the C suite is unprepared to step up to the challenge. If ever there were a company taken captive by its own corporate culture, it is Microsoft.
Yesterday, Brian Briggs offered a satiric news-story in which he “reported” that Ballmer was announcing the end of Internet Explorer 8 and telling his employees to convert to Firefox. Henceforth, Microsoft would treat Firefox as their standard browser. From the Briggs’ “story”
Ballmer pleaded with other browser makers to coalesce around Firefox. “Why should we have so many programming hours going into different browsers? It’s so easy for everyone to contribute to Firefox. Safari and Opera programmers should get on board too. If we all rally around one browser then consumers will be the big winners, and that’s always been a priority for Microsoft,” said Ballmer.
It’s a funny story. But it’s also a nice little “thought exercise.” It is impossible to imagine Ballmer acting with this kind of initiative, imaginative or vision. (I’m not suggesting that what Briggs proposes is a good idea. Only that it is hard to imagine Ballmer ever acting with this scale and dynamism.) It is impossible to imagine Ballmer advocating a position that would make consumers “the big winners.”
No, what we expect from Ballmer is the sort of thing we got from court records a couple of years ago. Ballmer was talking to a Microsoft engineer who was threatening to move to Google. Ballmer is said to have said of Google CEO Eric Schmidt:
I am going to f*cking bury that guy. … I’m going to f*cking kill Google.”
This much is clear. Microsoft helped create an industry that is creating a culture that is creating an economy in which Microsoft can sustain itself only with an installed base and bully boy bluster. In sum, Microsoft helped start a party to which it is no longer invited. Apple gets it. Google gets it. Firefox gets it. (Each of them in a different way, interestingly.) Microsoft, not so much. Microsoft, not at all. How can something as smart as a corporation sometimes act as dumb as a corporation?
Albanesius, Chloe. Mozilla Unveils Firefox 3.0 Tuesday. PCMag.com. June 16, 2008. here.
Anonymous. “I’ll kill Google,” threatens Ballmer. Microsoft bruiser on the warpath. PCadvisor.co.uk. here.
Briggs, Brian. 2008. Microsoft Abandons Internet Explorer 8 Development for Firefox 3. BBspot. here.