How Firefox is Changing the World

Back in the old days, before the browser wars, when Java applets were all the range, when XML “gave Java something to do”, one of the Netscape executives said that they will turn “Windows into a bunch of drivers to run Netscape”. Fast forward ten years or so: we have browsers (roughly 70-80% IE, 15-20% Firefox and Safari/Opera taking up the slack) through which you can: do document processing (blogs, wiki, google docs), music listening (many web radio stations) and more — practically a new application platform powered by Javascript and XML. AJAX has turned browsers into full-fledged, crappy and ubiquitous platforms.

Enter the Firefox: with 15-20% market share, it cannot be ignored. Any half-way decent site will support it now. After all, with such an easy market to deploy into, nobody wants to have a competitor get 15-20% of the users for free. With firefox being supported by the new generation of application software, as long as you have a “bunch of drivers” to run it, you can deploy functional computers. The only part of the prophecy that was wrong, it turned out, that windows will be that bunch of drivers. Linux can serve as drivers just as well, and eventually led to the 300$ computer I am writing this on. A completely functional computer, using Firefox (and friends — OpenOffice and Pidgin) needing no Microsoft tax, and installed that way in the ASUS factory.

People wondered when the MS tax will stop being a reality. The answer is simple: it’s not. You no longer need to be a geek to buy a fully functional computer that Microsoft has not been “compensated” for. A few million ASUS Eee PC laptops prove it. As computing becomes cheaper, and 300$ laptops will grow in power until people are not sure why they are buying more expensive computers, the Microsoft tax will be a larger and larger part of the OEM price — and for less and less reason, as the web is subsuming more and more services.

Excercise for the reader: how are virtualization and ubiquitous connectivity parts of the same revolution?

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