Microsoft forcing stuff onto your computer is nothing new…

I’ve gone on on a number of occassions about how Microsoft is now actively forcing Windows 7 users to upgrade to 10. It’s annoying, especially when 7 is by far the best Microsoft OS since XP. But this is nothing new.

Remember a little thing called Windows 95? The introduction to computing for most of us? As Nathan Lineback says in his interesting article here: Windows 95 was… heavily about choice. One could choose to use the Windows 3.1 Program Manager shell, networking was optional, and all accessories were optional via the new Add/Remove Programs control panel item.

However, there was one thing you couldn’t choose. For people who wanted to enhance their Windows experience, Microsoft brought out a “plus” pack. The floppy version was fine, but the CD version included a new web browser called Internet Explorer. This was a non-optional component even if you didn’t have internet access, and a prelude of much worse to come.

Lineback continues: Microsoft released Internet Explorer 4 – a very buggy, bloated browser… how Microsoft pushed it on to consumers was unacceptable… Other browsers, or indeed any normal application, would never touch system files or alter the way an operating system worked. IE 4, when installed on Windows 95 or NT 4, would replace or update many system files with its own special versions (emphasis mine). Microsoft sneakily discouraged its own users from using other browsers because all the crap IE4 put on their computers slowed them down!

And then came Windows 98, with IE4 as standard. This time around, Microsoft oh-so-cleverly “integrated” it into the entire OS, meaning it was virtually impossible for the home user to remove it. Corporate NT users were given an “Option” pack from Microsoft which included an update to Internet Information Server, supposedly for the new millenium and other Y2K related marketing things. And yes, the “Option” pack included IE4… and it was of course mandatory.

And if that wasn’t sickening enough, get ready for these apples.

Apple released their successful iMac range at around the same time, and seeking to capitalise on it, Microsoft held Apple to proverbial gunpoint and said “either include IE as standard on your iMacs or we will discontinue Office for Mac”. Not seeking to lose all these millions after the shaky decade Apple had had, Steve Jobs announced that IE would be replacing Netscape as the default browser for Mac and was roundly booed. To the Apple faithful, it was near blasphemy that they would team up with their arch-rivals, and once they found out the reasoning they were even more incensed.

Microsoft went as far as to forbid OEMs from disabling IE or even just removing the desktop icon! Again, there were millions at stake and Compaq, Dell etc. didn’t want to risk financial catastrophe just because they didn’t like IE. Finally, network admins who installed the new Microsoft Proxy Server had to install IE as Microsoft had defaulted to using a “handshake” method called NTLM authentication which required IE to work correctly! If you used Netscape or any other browser, which was unlikely as MPS disabled all non-IE internet tools, you would be forced to enter an unencrypted password to continue- usually the same as one’s network login!

So have Microsoft learned lessons from their past? No. Likely they will get this bad again trying to go for their “one billion Win 10 machines!” goal and perhaps end up “Netscaping” companies offering alternative OSes out of business.

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