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On Microsoft and Eolas.

Zeldman posts a thoughtout missive on why MS may be trying to lose the patent case case brought against it. Having read the patent myself, I do think that Eolas have a fairly good claim. Have a read yourself, should you be so inclined and make your own decision.

Setting aside the validity of the claim, usually MS lawyers can work a way around patent claims such as this one. This has caused the theory that MS are actually trying to lose the patent case. Personally, I don’t believe it, but it’s an interesting theory non-the-less.

Whilst it would hurt many of MS’s competitors, I agree with Zeldman that it would hurt MS just as much and so would be tantamount to shooting themselves in the foot. Though it would offer MS a monopoly on browser media plugins in IE (just claim Windows Media Player is “built into” the browser rather than being an external program which is what the patent covers), there is a long lead time before Longhorn ships, with what is supposed to be the next version of IE. Unless MS released a new version of IE before then, they would be forced to stick with a crippled version of IE for a couple of years.

So many sites use Flash and other technologies that MS would be forced to remove from their browser that IE would be a burden to the company. However, many people just are not aware that other browsers exist and so I don’t believe that there would be a mass exodus to, say, Mozilla or Opera. They would just be left with a crippled browser that suddenly couldn’t use many of the websites they used to be able to use fine. So MS losing the case would be bad for consumers as well as MS itself.

In conclusion, one finds oneself in the odd position of rooting for Microsoft. A loss in this case would be a loss for net users and developers alike in addition to MS itself.

.:.