Chromium Plated

First, they got Bob, which bobbed out of
sight pretty soon. Then they dabbled with a variety of educational CDs which were a whole
lot more promising.

Microsoft has for a long time tried to
seduce the home/entertainment user to its side. Now, the company has come up with
specifications for a new web browser called Chrome, a product which will enable you to
watch TV-quality 3D animation, and listen to hi-fi sound at reasonably good download
times.

Hooray! you say? Well, hold your horses.
For, anything 3D on the Web needs to be to be ratified by the VRML Consortium, and, as
usual, Microsoft has decided that since it is a law unto everybody-they stopped believing
that they were just a law unto themselves eons ago-it could always dabble around with
technologies as it saw fit, and let standards bodies catch up with it later.

The Chronic Chromium Problem

  • Microsoft Chrome will deliver TV-quality 3-D
    animation and high-fidelity sound at dramatically improved download times.
  • Chrome is dubbed by Microsoft as a
    "Windows system service."
  • Chrome basically creates a pathway for Web
    designers to create DirectX-powered 3D images in regular HTML pages.
  • It will require a 350 MHz Pentium II to run.
  • The Internet Explorer Web browser will also
    be able to display Chrome-built material, but current bandwidth limitations make it
    unlikely that Web-based content will transmit well.

Ok, ok, we know that standards bodies are
normally populated by old fuddy-duddies with expanding waist-lines and narrow-minded
perspectives; many of us also believe that most standards bodies, with their general
penchance for low speed-the top speed of most consortiums barely rivals a fairly active
tortoise-tend to hamper growth. But on the flip side, at least they deliver a certain
amount of solid, reassuring stability, which all of us-especially on the Web-need badly.
For another thing, they set decent standards-or at least, some fairly high
sub-standards-for all of us, designers, vendors, and users alike, to follow.

One might still forgive Microsoft its
arrogance if the company at least did a good job of things. Unfortunately, the Chrome
technology-due for release in Q1, 1999 as a part of Win 98 and Win NT 5.0-demands a
whopping amount of processing power to get up and running. You will need at least a 350
MHz Pentium II to realize the sterling "benefits" of this exemplary technology.

Before Microsoft goes trumpeting around town with its half-cocked
ideas, it should at least ponder a few basic issues. Firstly, does the bandwidth for the
whole exercise actually exist? Secondly, how many people will actually buy a 350 MHz
Pentium II to view 3D? And thirdly, does it actually make sense, trying to over-rule (or
at least, attempt to side-step) the existing standards body, the VRML Consortium, and risk
facing an assaulting barrage of embarrassing questions at the DoJ office, or worse still,
at a Senate hearing?

The funny thing is, everybody knows that
Microsoft is the King Of The Hill. There is absolutely no reason for the Redmond giant to
go around behaving like a stupid school punk-bully beating his little tiny-tot schoolmates
simply because he wants all their lollipops.

Another major issue is Microsoft’s
persistence with ActiveX (also jeeringly called FloptiveX or CaptiveX by its detractors),
one of its technologies which never managed to take off. The issue here is, does Microsoft
need to constantly bring up a dead horse and flog it in public? Is it actually impossible
for the company to swallow its pride and attempt to use a product or a standard that it
did not actually develop? We all know that in the good old days of DOS, they ‘borrowed’
the concept of directories from the venerable Unix operating system; can’t they do the
same thing today, and enable growth for their users, for the industry, for the Web, for
themselves?

Maybe they just need to get their
strategies right.

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