I was going to write a post in response to Dvorak’s attack on Internet Explorer, but Nick Bradbury beat me to it.
What Dvorak ignores is the huge number of Windows applications that have benefited from the ability to embed a web browser. Microsoft has done a great job making it easy for developers to host Internet Explorer in their software, and this has been a good thing for customers. Think of all the software that relies on an embedded IE – not just commercial web authoring tools, feed readers, email clients, etc., but also the thousands of in-house applications that need to display web pages. This isn’t a minor point: millions of people rely on software that requires an embedded web browser, and in this regard, these people benefit from having the browser included in their OS.
(And yes, I know that theoretically you can embed the Mozilla engine in Windows software. The problem is, embedding Mozilla is a pain in the ass. I speak from experience: TopStyle provides the option to view your work in either an embedded IE or Mozilla (or both at the same time), and despite the fact that the people who use the embedded Mozilla are in the minority, we’ve had far more support problems with it than we’ve had with IE.)
I would also add that the concept of an embeddable HTML rendering engine was pioneered by Microsoft with Internet Explorer 5.0. I remember working on my first embedded project back when IE 5.0 came out, it was simply mind blowing what you could do. The number of applications since that leverage this technology is huge. (I myself have developed 6 different applications that reuse the web browser control.) Technology like this has helped the Windows ecosystem flourish. So although Internet Explorer ‘proper’ has cost Microsoft plenty (law suits, developer resources, etc.) it has helped generate who knows how many billions in revenue from sales of operating systems and software for both Microsoft and their development community. I also agree with Nick that integrating IE into Explorer was a mistake, and that Microsoft never should have pulled those OEM stunts – they were destined to destroyed Netscape anyway by simply building the better browser.