Admittedly, the situation has changed significantly since 2009 and the browser ballot screen is now largely unnecessary, as the usage share of Internet Explorer has dropped rapidly in the last few years, having stabilised at around around 10%. The role of the ballot screen in this downfall was arguably minimal, as the share of Internet Explorer started dropping around 2003, and can be mainly attributed to security issues and lack of key functionalities compared to its competitors.
Whatever the cause, the ultimate goal was reached: users became more aware that different browsers were available, which increased competition, which in turn created incentives to offer the best service, ultimately benefiting all users (even Internet Explorer’s, as Microsoft caught up with its competitors). Whether Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, will change this picture and help Microsoft gain its leader position back, is, at this stage, anyone’s guess. But if it does, it will have to be on its own merits, in a highly competitive marketplace with knowledgeable users willing to switch to the best service being offered.
The internet browser, however, is only one of the many pieces of software typically bundled with new operating systems. In fact, the operating system itself is often bundled with the purchase of a new computer, a practice which has be dubbed by some as the “Windows tax“. Of course, there are some merits to the idea of bundling software : after all, most users would expect their computers to work and perform basic functionalities such as browsing the web, playing media files or editing documents “out of the box”.
But this must not take place at the expense of users, whether in the most literal sense (through users being forced to pay for a licence for a piece of software they do not intend to use) or, simply, because of a lack of awareness on the availability and respective merits of alternative applications. If we are to take any lesson away from the browser wars, it is that greater competition in the marketplace ultimately leads to better services being offered to users.