First a few disclaimers:
1. I work for Microsoft, on the same team as Kirk, and he is a good friend.
2. I have never used Opera, and hence am not qualified to compare the browser with IE in terms of its standard compliance or any of its other features.
3. I am not trying to either support or discredit Kirk's position on this matter because of of disclaimer #2, simply trying to draw my own observations.
From reading the replies here, it is clear that every poster to Kirk's post is a member of the technical denizen - you all are information technologists of some sort, or else you would not be reading Kirk's blog - right ? That said, I clearly divide the "consumer" world into two parts - people like you, me and Kirk and people like my Mom, my neighbor, our local grocery store manager etc. i.e. the group to whom it really matters how a browser is implemented and behaves technically since it directly impacts their work and livelihood, and the other group being the ones that use the browser as a means to get information, read the newspaper, watch movies and get football scores, for whom the browser does impact their day-to-day but to whom the technical minutae is less obvious or even important. I would also venture to say that we comprise less than 5% of that total populace (no hard facts here - just venturing).
Given above, I cannot help but make a few interesting, even amusing observations from all of this.
1. If we consider that Opera did this for the betterment of the technology community (as is stated in the open letter to the web community), I am a little surprised as to why this is an issue. I have a lot of friends/colleagues/school buddies in the IT profession that use Windows as a platform for their daily work but does not like IE. The first thing they do when they get a new PC, is download Firefox or Opera or their favorite browser, use that for all their web development, and never once use IE again. After all we are technologists - how troublesome is it to download a piece of software and install it ?
And even if that is an issue, Opera is welcome to work with OEM's and provide installable or pre-installed bits on the machine (like a bunch of mail and IM providers often do) - where does Microsoft or the bundling of IE into Windows impact or derail that process ?
Now you would be right to say, we technologists need to build web apps in a way such that the expectation is that it works the same in all browsers, and you would be right to expect so. But how does unbundling IE from Windows help force MS's hands into bettering IE's standards compliance ? Are some of you saying, that if MS does so indeed, and assuming that MS does improve IE to full standards compliance in the next year or two, Opera would be the first one to appeal that MS start bundling IE with Windows again, now that they are fully standards compliant ? I would guess not - to me it seems purely a fairness/desktop share kind of issue. And if that is so, let's drop the pretense that we are debating the merits based on standards compliance - this is purely a business strategy - has nothing to do with the purity of standards.
2. If on the other hand we consider that Opera filed this complaint with the goodness of Joe consumer at heart (that would be my Mom and my neighbor), as is indicated in the original complaint (but interestingly not so in the open letter), then we have a different scenario all together.
Let's for instance do consider that my Mom does know what Cascading Stylesheets are , does care about IE's full compliance with that standard, or that IE uses DHTML behaviors which are not directly supported in some browsers etc.. Let's also suppose that creates havoc in her reading the NY Times everyday, and considering all this MS graciously decides to remove IE from Windows. Now what ?
Well, let's say my Mom buys a PC - how does she browse the web ? Someone said in an earlier post, that IE should be a separate download (I would assume that poster would concede that in that scenario Opera should be as well - otherwise there might be a stink of duplicity there) - well how does she download anything ? There's no browser on the PC aka no way to get to the web.
Ok - so say the OEM does not install a browser, but provides the bits for all the browsers on the local disk and links on the desktop to install the one that my Mom chooses. So why can't that be done today with Opera, and what has that to do with the fact that IE is pre-installed ? That again seems to be a matter of some arrangement/agreement between Opera and an OEM, and their business deal - should have nothing to do with IE.
3. Mark Lomas stated in his reply "Microsoft decided the browser should be free - because it could, because it had the money to do so, and because it had the dominant desktop OS, through which it could achieve it's goal of gaining browser dominance by bundling."
This is the one that made me laugh the loudest. In my day job, I (and Kirk) constantly come across debates with proponents of open source/free software both in the community and the enterprise, who claim that software should be free. Productivity software should be free - look at OpenOffice, App Servers should be free (which is the case with MS anyway) - look at JBoss, the OS should be free - look at Linux etc.
But when we do provide free software, pre-installed as a part of Windows, the community complains about how we use free software to hook the unknowing customer in, and thus maintain our monopoly. So is free software good or bad for the community, for the economy, for mankind at large ? Or may be it does not matter and it is always bad no matter what, as long as it comes from MS ?
I do care about standards, and would be the first one in line to shout out with you guys that our work with IE needs to improve, and we need to be fully standards compliant. I am also pro-choice and do believe that the platform should give the user (technical or otherwise) full opportunity to use software of their choice. But what I do not believe is that this effort on Opera's part has anything to do such noble sentiments - this to me seems to be a pure business move.
And that said, it seems that complaining to the EU, was a fairly "below the belt" way of executing it. Disingenous - probably so as well.