Microsoft today announced that Internet Explorer would cease to exist as a standalone product in the near future. It appears that, having won the “browser wars” and created an environment of entrenched support for the IE browser, it is no longer necessary to provide it as a separate application. Once upcoming Windows versions are released, only upgrading the Operating System (OS) will upgrade the browser.
In fact, Microsoft already began moving toward this structure with the release of Windows XP. Newer versions of Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer, while not necessarily radically different, were included in the release. However, they were eventually made available to older OSes as standalone products. With this change, Microsoft can now leverage the entrenched IE user base to force users to upgrade their versions of Windows. To receive the latest functionality, users will have no choice. And the irritating integration already put in place, such as by default searching on MSN through the Address Bar, can be further enhanced.
Of course, the potential downside is that users, especially at home, will balk at both the hassle and the cost of upgrading to each new OS version, resulting in stagnation of the further development of the Web. After all, most sites want to drive traffic, and if users do not have the ability to access your site, they’ll just go elsewhere.
None-the-less, the whole bundling concept seems proven to me now. Now, if only those pesky RealPlayer and Quicktime players would go away, so Microsoft could do the same with Windows Media Player.