One of the incredibly useful things about Mac OS X in general is the potential for integration between applications. Type the name of an Address Book contact in Gus Mueller's VoodooPad and it'll link the name, offering a useful contextual menu. Collect icons in CandyBar? Right click one and you can set it as your iChat avatar with the option of applying any of Leopard's new image effects. And let's not even get started on the power that AppleScript and its mortal-friendly Automator enable for moving and manipulating data between applications.
It is with this integration in mind that some new features in a couple of Mac OS X e-mail clients deserve a highlight, as they're fairly game-changing developments for those who have to work with mail on a regular basis. First is the discovery of Leopard Mail's support of message URLs, explored in-depth by John Gruber at Daring Fireball. Though the new feature is strangely undocumented by Apple, users have discovered that Mail now supports a system of URLs (yes, URLs can do more than point to porn) that allow you to link specific messages in other applications. For example, you could include links to a couple Mail messages from coworkers alongside notes, pictures, and web links in OmniOutliner or Yojimbo documents. This opens up a whole new productivity world, allowing you to bring your e-mail into other applications that aren't specifically designed to integrate with Leopard's Mail.
To help make it easy for users to harvest these message links (as of 10.5.1, Mail doesn't provide an option, and not all applications create the proper Mail message URL from a simple drag and drop yet), Gruber includes the code for a simple AppleScript at the end of his post. Save that script with Script Editor (found in /Applications/AppleScript/) and call it via any number of methods, such as Mac OS X's own AppleScript menubar item, Red Sweater's FastScripts, or launchers like Quicksilver and LaunchBar. The newest Leopard version of indev software's MailTags plug-in for Mail also provides a dedicated menu option for copying a message URL.
If this integration has your productivity gears turning, but Gmail is your client of choice, Mailplane could offer a nice compromise. As a desktop Gmail browser that allows for things like drag-and-drop file attachment and even an iPhoto plug-in for e-mailing photos, Mailplane is more or less a bridge between the convenience of webmail and the integrated power of desktop clients.
New in the most recent private betas of Mailplane (1.55.4 and above) is a similar URL system for Gmail messages which appears to work on both Leopard and Tiger. Complete with an Edit > Copy as Mailplane URL option, this option allows users to paste custom mailplane:// URLs in other applications to bring mail out of Gmail and into their productivity workflows. Remember, though, that Mailplane is still a browser for Gmail, albeit with the aforementioned modifications and other useful things like Growl notifications and support for multiple accounts (including Google Apps). Since it isn't an offline mail client, you'll still need to be online for a Mailplane URL to connect to its corresponding Gmail message.
Still, these new message URL features in two useful Mac e-mail clients will likely see some official integration love from other third-party apps in the near future. Aside from DIY AppleScripts, apps like Yojimbo and TextMate can only benefit from being able to include e-mail in the productivity mix. Knock knock third parties—how's about it?
Google's Chinese business has been consistently questioned and criticized, but now a Chinese company has taken issue simply with its name.
Beijing Guge Sci-Tech is suing Guge, or Google China, claiming that the Internet search giant is tramlping on its good and, perhaps most important, registered Chinese Mandarin business name. Guge Sci-Tech registered its name in 2006, a few months before Google did. Now the tech company wants Google to change the name of its Chinese branch and pay an undisclosed sum to cover all its legal fees.
Beijing Guge Sci-Tech registered its name at the Beijing Municipal Industrial and Commercial Bureau on April 19, 2006, and Google followed with registering "Guge" on November 24 that same year. This similarity in names, Beijing Guge Sci-Tech argues, has confused the public and damaged its business.
However, if Google was considering the use of the word before Beijing Guge Sci-Tech registered, it could work in Google's favor as the company has clearly registered its name in good faith. And, for all we know, the Chinese-based Guge may be little more than a trademark registration or a cybersquat, as information on the company is extremely hard to come by. Google China suggests that Guge Sci-Tech is indeed looking for an easy payout, perhaps having picked up on Google's plans by paying attention to Western media. Everyone knew Google would be changing its name in China, as "Goo-Gol" means "old" or "lame dog."
Also at issue between the companies is the definition of guge, which is not a normal Chinese word. Google says its a combination of Chinese characters that mean "valley" and "song"—a reference to Google's Silicon Valley ties. Beijing Guge Sci-Tech disagrees, stating the word means "a cuckoo singing in the spring, or the sound of grain singing during the harvest autumn time."
At FOSSCamp in October, skilled eye-candy expert Mirco Müller (also known as MacSlow) hosted a session about using OpenGL in GTK to bring richer user interfaces to desktop Linux applications. Building on the technologies that he presented at FOSSCamp, Müller recently published a blog entry that demonstrates his latest impressive experiments with OpenGL, GTK, and offscreen rendering.
Müller is currently developing the GDM Face Browser, a new login manager for Ubuntu that will include enhanced visual effects and smoothly animated transitions. To implement the face browser, he will need to be able to seamlessly combine OpenGL and conventional GTK widgets. Existing canvas libraries like Pigment and Clutter are certainly robust options for OpenGL development, but they do not offer support for the kind of integration that he envisions.
The solution, says Müller, is to use offscreen rendering and the texture_from_pixmap OpenGL extension. In his experimental demo programs, he loads GTK widgets from Glade user interface files, renders them into offscreen pixmaps, and then uses texture_from_pixmap to display the rendered widgets in a GTK/GLExt drawing area, where they can be transformed and manipulated with OpenGL. Müller has created several demo videos that show this technique can be used to apply animated transitions and add reflections to widgets. The visual effects implemented by Müller with GTK and OpenGL do not require the presence of a compositing window manager.
We talked to to Müller to get some additional insight into the challenges and benefits of incorporating OpenGL into desktop applications. One of the major deficiencies of the current approach, he says, is that users will not be able to interact with GTK widgets while they are being animated with OpenGL—a limitation that stems from lack of support for input redirection at the level of the toolkit.
"Interaction will only be possible at the final/original position of the widget," Müller told us, "since gtk+ has no knowledge of the animation/transformation taking place. I consider it to be much work to get clean input-redirection working in gtk+. There might be some ways to achieve it using hacks or work-arounds, but that should be avoided."
Eye candy or UI improvement?
Although some critics might be inclined to prematurely deride Müller's work as indulgent eye-candy, he primarily envisions developers adopting OpenGL integration to tangibly improve the user experience by increasing usability. "I would like to see [OpenGL] being used in applications for transition effects," he says. "We can right now improve the visual clues for users. By that I mean the UI could better inform them what's going on. Widgets [shouldn't] just pop up or vanish in an instant, but gradually slide or fade in. These transitions don't have to take a lot of time. As a rule of thumb half a second would be sufficient."
In particular, Müller would like to experiment with adding animated transition effects to the GTK notebook and expander widgets. He also has some creative ideas for applying animations to the widget focus rectangle in order to make its movement more visible to the user. Müller also discusses some applications that would benefit from OpenGL-based transitions. In programs like the Totem video player, he says, the playback controls in fullscreen mode could slide in and out rather than just appearing and disappearing. Alluding to the webcam demo that he made for FOSSCamp, he also points out the potential for incorporating OpenGL effects into video chat programs like Ekiga. Müller has also long advocated using visual effects to create richer and more intuitive user interfaces for file and photo management software—ideas that he has put into practice with his brilliant LowFat image viewer.
"The kind of effects possible if you can render everything into a texture, map it to a rectangle or mesh and then do further manipulations with GL (or shaders) are next to limitless," says Müller. "Just look at what Compiz allows you to do to windows now. Imagine that on the widget-level."
We also asked Müller to explain the performance implications of using OpenGL in GTK applications. "The memory-overhead is directly linked to the size of the window, since all the rendering has to happen in an OpenGL-context filling the whole window. The bigger the window, the bigger the needed amount of video memory," Müller explains. "The load caused on the system is directly linked to the animation-refresh one chooses. 60Hz would be super smooth and very slick. But that's a bit of an overkill in most cases. One still gets good results from only 20Hz."
There are still some performance issues with the texture_from_pixmap that are actively being resolved. "Due to some issues in Xorg (or rather DRI) there are still too many copy-operations going on behind the scenes for GLX_EXT_texture_from_pixmap," says Müller. "There are also locking issues and a couple of other things. At the moment I cannot name them all with exact details. But more importantly is the fact that there's currently work being done—in the form of DRI2—by Kristian Hoegsberg (Red Hat) to fix these very issues on Xorg. I cannot stress enough how important this DRI2 work is!"
Although using OpenGL incurs additional memory consumption and system load, Müller says that the impact is small enough to make his current approach viable for projects like the Ubuntu Face Browser.
Although individual developers can use Müller's boiler-plate code to incorporate OpenGL integration into their own GTK programs, Müller suspects that support for this technique will not be included directly in GTK at any time in the near future, which will make it harder for developers to adopt. "Right now it is all happening in application-level code and not inside gtk+," Müller explains. "Since I use GLX_EXT_texture_from_pixmap to achieve efficient texture-mapping out of the wigets' pixmap it is currently a X11-only solution. Therefore I imagine they might want to see a more platform-independent solution to this first." The GTK offscreen rendering feature that Müller uses also currently lacks cross-platform support.
Despite the challenges and limitations, Müller's creative work opens the door for some profoundly intriguing user interface enhancements in GTK and GNOME applications. "There are more things possible than you think," says Müller in some concluding remarks for our readers. "Don't have doubts, embrace what's available. X11 and gtk+ are pretty flexible. People who just don't seem motivated to explore ideas and test their limits (or the limits of the framework), should remember that this is Open Source. It lives and thrives only when people step up and get involved. Just f*****g do it!"
Anyone looking forward to Toshiba's 30" OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) displays in 2009 or 2010 is either going to have to wait a little longer or find a different manufacturer. Toshiba announced this week that it was shelving plans to build large OLED displays because the current and short-term costs of mass production are too high to create a commercially viable product. It's surprising that a company of Toshiba's size would back away from OLED-based television manufacturing. OLED displays, after all, have been touted as the Next Big Thing™ as far back as 2001.
OLEDs have a number of advantages over current LCD technology. Unlike LCDs, they do not require a backlight to function, which allows them to draw much less power while active. OLEDs are potentially more efficient to manufacture than LCDs, can be printed on flexible substrates, have a much better viewing angle than modern LCDs, and display better and more realistic color. Furthermore, OLED displays are also faster than their LCD counterparts. All of these improvements, however, come with a cost.
To date, OLED production has been considerably slower than what was initially forecast. Manufacturers have wrestled with display lifetime for years. Originally, OLED displays had a lifespan of only 5,000 hours compared to an LCD's lifetime of 60,000 hours. This has slowly changed over time—manufacturers now estimate they can build OLED screens that equal or exceed the lifetime of a standard LCD—but these sorts of issues have pushed mass-market introduction of large OLED displays ever further into the future.
OLEDs have had some success in very small displays (think cell phones, MP3 players, etc.), but no sizable screens have been produced until this year. As the EETimes reports, Sony has launched an 11" OLED display in Japan—but production costs have forced the company to build just 2,000 of these displays per month. At around $1,700 for an 11" screen, this isn't exactly the kind of display anyone would pick up for movie watching, either.
Based on the current speed of OLED display development, Toshiba's decision to put 30" screens on hold appears to be a sound one. Even if 30" OLED displays become available in the next two years, they're likely to carry a hefty price tag and face a slow market ramp-up. It's reasonable to expect both LCD and plasma displays to improve (and costs to decline) between now and 2010, which will put OLED displays at a further market disadvantage. That's not to say that OLED panels won't be able to compete down the line, but that looks to be the proverbial Three to Five Years Away.
Companies like Sony and Samsung have reaffirmed their intent to push forward with OLED screen production despite the cost; it wouldn't be surprising if Toshiba is scaling back its own plans in this area to cut expenses while staying current enough to take advantage of eventual price drops.
The battle in the Senate over how to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) begins on Monday when, over the objections of prominent Democrats, Majority Leader Harry Reid will introduce the White House–supported version of a reform bill approved in October by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
This past Tuesday, fourteen Democratic senators—including presidential contenders Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joseph Biden, and Chris Dodd—signed a letter urging Reid to instead bring to the floor an alternative bill produced in November by the Judiciary Committee. That version of the legislation, which will now be offered as an amendment to the Intelligence Committee's bill, contained a variety of additional restrictions and checks on government wiretaps sought by civil liberties groups. It also, crucially, omitted a provision granting telecom companies retroactive immunity from lawsuits related to their cooperation with the president's extrajudicial eavesdropping program. President Bush has pledged to veto any FISA amendment that failed to provide such immunity—a threat that did not deter the House from passing just such a bill last month. Meanwhile, Senator Dodd, whose attempt to place a "hold" on the Intelligence Committee bill was overridden by Reid, is pledging to filibuster any legislation that does include retroactive immunity.
While Democrats have struggled to counteract a frustrated base's perception of congressional capitulation to the White House, the executive branch has mounted a full court press in favor of its preferred version of the law. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Wednesday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey warned that the changes made in the Judiciary Committee's version of the bill "would have the collective effect of weakening the government's ability to effectively surveil intelligence targets abroad." And on Thursday, Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell made their case directly to the Senate in a closed-door briefing.
With divisions sharp, various attempts to split the difference between the alternatives have fallen flat. Reid had earlier sought, under the Senate's Rule Fourteen, to offer a pair of his own bills mixing and matching provisions from the two committees, a solution that appears to have pleased nobody. And on Thursday, the Judiciary Committee rejected a proposal by Senator Arlen Spector to allow lawsuits against the telecom companies to go forward, but with the government substituted as the defendant. (The groups bringing the suits worry that the government would be able to invoke legal defenses, such as executive privilege and sovereign immunity, that are unavailable to private telecom providers.) Michelle Richardson, a legislative consultant for the American Civil Liberties Union, hopes that this may be a strategic blunder on the administration's part. "A lot of people would probably support giving the government broader authority if they would decouple that issue from the immunity question," says Richardson, "so they're probably shooting themselves in the foot by forcing it to go forward like this."
The current wrangling continues a debate that began this summer with the hasty passage of the Protect America Act in response to a ruling by the FISA court—a ruling which the court has declined to release, but which is purported to have required intelligence agencies to acquire warrants when wiretapping conversations between foreign parties that were routed (and recorded) through US telecom switches. Eavesdropping on purely foreign communications had previously been unrestricted—primarily because, traditionally, the physical tap on foreign-to-foreign calls had occurred overseas, outside US jurisdiction. But the Protect America Act, which is due to expire in February, went beyond merely closing this "intelligence gap" and authorized a broad program of surveillance, under minimal court oversight, that permits Americans' conversations with foreigners to be collected, so long as the American party to the communication was not "targeted" by an investigation. The bills now under consideration seek to establish a more permanent solution: the Intelligence Committee version of the FISA Amendment would remain in effect for six years, while the Judiciary Committee version sunsets in four.
While media attention has focused largely on the question of immunity for telecom firms, the additional limitations on surveillance contained in the Judiciary Committee's version of the bill are, arguably, at least as significant. That bill would explicitly bar "bulk" or "vacuum cleaner" surveillance of international telecom traffic that is not directed at a particular person or telephone number. It would require individualized FISA court review whenever the collection of an American's communications became a "significant purpose" of an investigation, whether or not that person was a "target" of the investigation. And it would provide for a congressional audit of past extrajudicial surveillance by the National Security Agency.
A spokesman for Reid says the majority leader hopes to be able to send a bill to conference before Congress adjourns for winter recess, though some observers find this unlikely, and civil liberties groups are anxious to avoid a repetition of the sort of last-minute legislation that produced the Protect America Act. Meanwhile, some civil libertarians are already casting an eye toward the next battle. "We're going to keep fighting to get the important judicial protections in, the immunity out, but if we can't do those things we're going to get as many no votes on the final product as possible," says the ACLU's Richardson. "We don't want the members owning this bill, owning this program, so that when it finally does sunset we can get meaningful changes."
The difficulty and frustration of building GNOME from source is a major impediment for many new contributors. Installing the dependencies, getting the tools working, and compiling major components of the desktop environment is a burden that detracts from time that could be spent making patches. In order to resolve this problem, the developers from rPath have created the GNOME Developer Kit, a complete environment for testing and developing GNOME.
The GNOME Developer Kit is based on the Foresight Linux distribution and includes regularly updated packages built from the latest code in GNOME’s version control system. The Developer Kit is made available as a VMware image as well as an installable ISO. The included package management system can be used to keep the system up to date as changes are made to GNOME during the development cycle.
“Once you download it, you will easily be able to update it every day with PackageKit or Conary, so no need to download new versions,” said rPath’s Ken VanDine in a blog entry. “There will be new downloads available regularly, probably daily, so when you download it, it will be ready to go immediately, without waiting for additional updates. The best of both worlds!”
In addition to providing a complete GNOME desktop environment, the GNOME Developer Kit also includes some experimental components that are under active development or being considered for inclusion in GNOME. For instance, Empathy, PulseAudio, PolicyKit, and PackageKit are all included by default. Although I like a lot of the nice things that are included in the GNOME Developer Kit, there are still a few other extras that I’d like to see added. In particular, I think it would be really nice if it included Mono and MonoDevelop from the latest sources.
Happy Friday, er, again! For those of you participating in Consumermas, remember: you only have a week and a few days left to shop. But check out these links while you continue to put off buying your mom some new tupperware:
Walt Disney World's "Spaceship Earth" ride in Epcot is a fond memory of many of our childhoods. Epcot recently added a tribute to Apple's beginnings to the ride with Steve, but now we're not so sure… well, which Steve it is. Originally thought to be Steve Jobs, Gizmodo calls that theory into question, saying that perhaps the Steve represented in plastic form is Woz instead.Apple has applied for a patent on a way to detect free-fall in electronics, which can be particularly helpful when protecting data stored on devices with moving parts (such as hard drives). This could eventually lead to better accident protection on devices like iPods (classic, of course) and laptops.If any of you were still stuck using Virtual PC, which is now owned by Microsoft, then you should give up any hope of using it in Leopard. The Mac BU confirmed to The Mac Observer this week that Virtual PC would not be coming to Apple's new OS—the last remaining version is Tiger-only.Speaking of Microsoft, Office 2008 is done and ready to go. For realz this time. The final build has been released to manufacturing (RTM) this week, putting it right on track to launch on January 15 at Macworld.Apple was named in a defamation suit against cable TV network BET this week. BET had aired a photo of Chicago gang leader Larry Hoover along with Houston residents James Prince and Thomas Randle while implying that the three were murderers. The piece eventually made its way to the iTunes Store, and
history a lawsuit was made.During last week's opening of the 14th Street Apple Store in New York, senior VP of retail Ron Johnson said that the company planned to open 40 more stores in 2008.
Now off to your endless string of holiday parties. Have some extra-spiked egg nog for us.
The prospect of having broadband while flying at 35,000 feet is enough to get most of us geeks a-twitter. We'd want it to be safe, of course, but frankly we're a little tired of the arguments against unencumbered in-flight WiFi that center on so-called 'Net etiquette. An AP report today recounts the objections of some travelers and airlines alike to in-flight WiFi, and they pull out the usual ghosts and goblins: armies of loud VoIP users, people "flaming" each other on planes (oh please), and guys who just can't stop looking at porn. These Chicken Little scenarios are tiresome and not supported by the evidence, yet they are being used by many airlines to justify blocking and filtering in-flight broadband. Some airlines will filter VoIP packets, others will use blacklists to block access to sites. (And meanwhile, people are still bringing "carry-ons" onto the plane that are two-times too large.)
We only need to look at current parallels to see that those fears have little basis in reality. Consider the porn fear. Laptops on airplanes aren't exactly a new phenomenon—people have been taking them out to catch up on work, watch movies, play games, and otherwise screw around regularly for over a decade now. How often do we see someone on a plane pulling up and browsing his porn collection? Not very often (I, personally, have never seen such a thing). This nonexistent problem isn't going to be exacerbated by the presence of an Internet connection.
Another major concern appears to revolve around passengers making regular—and loud—phone calls through VoIP software like Skype. Although many airlines have offered those seat-back, in-flight phones for some time now, few people actually use them due to the high cost associated with them. Or do those passengers also avoid them because, well, no one wants to make a phone call while on a plane? It could be a mixture of both—I know that I'm not all that tempted to make phone calls while in-flight, except maybe to tell someone that I'll be late. Still, for those who do want to make calls, flights are loud and people are already chatting with each other. A few more people chatting into a headset instead of the child next to them isn't going to make much of a difference that can't be blocked out by a decent set of headphones.
Nevertheless, some airlines are planning on blocking users from receiving calls in-flight, while others want to block VoIP entirely. Strangely, these fears didn't stop the airlines from trying to make money off of their proprietary phone services.
The AP brings up a few other concerns—what if the person in front of you wants to recline! Or, *gasp* what if the person next to you keeps peering over to see what you're doing? Again, these are problems that people already have while using laptops on airplanes. Sure, it's annoying, but certainly not worth banning or restricting in-flight broadband.
We could go on and on, but just consider a parallel example that has essentially changed our casual laptop travels overnight: the coffee house. Freely-available WiFi, combined with still-falling laptop prices, have caused the presence of laptop-users in coffee houses to explode over the last five years. At the right time of day, Panera and Starbucks look more like offices than restaurants or cafes.
The coffee house laptop crowd consists of all types, too. Gamers, business people, students… all people who would rather just do their thing than disrupt everyone with blaring porn or a loud Skype session. In fact, the presence of laptop users have brought an eerie silence to coffee houses—the last time I was at a Starbucks (armed with my MacBook and some headphones, of course), it struck me how oddly quiet everything really was, aside from the cheesy store music and the whir of the baristas doing their thing. People are generally very sensitive to those around them and tend to avoid viewing anything that might offend someone walking by, too. Something tells me that in-flight broadband will yield largely the same results.
Thankfully, some seem to realize the same thing. "We think decency and good sense and normal behavior" will prevail when it comes to in-flight 'Net etiquette, Aircell CEO Jack Blumenstein told the AP. "I'd rather have the responsibility in the hands of passengers and require them to be accountable for what they do on laptops and airplanes," Harvard Law School professor John Palfrey added.
We tend to agree. Bring on the in-flight broadband and let the complainers take the bus.
It didn't receive nearly the same amount of attention as most of the other 299 new features of Mac OS X v10.5, but Leopard adds even more Unixy goodness to Apple's post-Classic operating systems. Specifically, Leopard is now UNIX 03 compliant, which means Apple can finally officially use the term in capital letters. It also means that there are some not-so-obvious changes under the hood from previous Mac OS X systems, which might trip up longtime Mac users.
For the Terminal junkies in the crowd, this is particularly significant. If, like me, you were wondering why the hell 'ps -aux' didn't work all of a sudden after upgrading, well, here's your answer. A series of tech documents from Apple outline the major compatibility changes with Unix commands and library functions, as well as how to revert to pre-Leopard behavior if necessary. The bottom line is that existing applications won't be affected, but scripts that take advantage of known behaviors (see the aforementioned 'ps' example, and yes, I know it's bad programming practice) or applications that are compiled on Mac OS X v10.5 or later may produce unexpected results.
It's good to see Apple trying to move Mac OS X closer to its Unix kin, although the ultimate success of such an endeavor depends in many ways upon the willingness of the Open Source community to accept any upstream changes that Apple makes. The adoption rate of other technologies like WebKit and launchd is sort of hit-or-miss in this regard so far, but closer conformance to industry standards is still a win for Apple and its users. Except for the part about the 'ps' script I need to fix.
Update: I seem to have accidentally uncovered a hornet's nest with the wording of this post! See my post in the discussion thread for a more detailed explanation as to why I worded things the way I did.
Microsoft has officially responded to the antitrust complaint filed by Opera yesterday with the European Commission. The software giant's key point: there are plenty of readily-available choices for Windows users looking for a browser other than Internet Explorer, and there's nothing forcing anyone to surf with a browser he or she doesn't like.
"It's important to note that computer users have complete freedom of choice to use and set as default any browser they wish, including Opera, and PC manufacturers can also preinstall any browser as the default on any Windows machine they sell," Microsoft spokesperson Jack Evans told Ars. "Microsoft is committed to ensuring that freedom through our Windows Principles."
In its complaint, Opera accuses Microsoft of harming competition in the browser space by producing a browser that's not standards compliant and illegally monopolizing the market by bundling IE with Windows. The Norwegian company would like the EC to force Microsoft to ship Windows without IE preloaded or with additional browsers installed. In addition, the company believes that Microsoft should be forced to follow "fundamental and open web standards accepted by web authoring communities."
In response, Microsoft defended the deep ties between Windows and IE. "Internet Explorer has been an integral part of the Windows operating system for over a decade and supports a wide range of web standards," said Evans.
Microsoft decided to integrate IE into Windows several years ago, and after IE6 SP1 shipped, the company said that IE6 SP1 would be the final standalone version of the browser. "As part of the OS, IE will continue to evolve," Microsoft said at the time, "but there will be no future standalone installations."
That changed a little over a year later, when the company decided to get the IE team back together. In January 2006, the first public beta of IE7 appeared, followed by the final release in October of that year.
Ironically, Microsoft's hand was forced by the browser competition—especially Firefox and, to a lesser extent, Opera. Both browsers introduced a number of innovations that made IE6 look stale and dated by comparison, and IE has seen its market share drop to as little as 60 percent in some parts of Europe. In a way, this supports Microsoft's argument regarding a diversity of options, but a 60 percentmarket share is still formidable and, of course, large enough that web developers are still left catering to IE's particularities.
Despite its belief that Opera's complaint is without merit, Microsoft is pledging full cooperation with the EC during the investigation.