Was out biking today, thinking about Hotmail. Don't get upset, it didn't take long. I was just wondering why Microsoft doesn't do more to make Hotmail in Internet Explorer more like Outlook Express.
If you've used Hotmail, which to its credit hasn't pulled a .Mac on us yet, you might have noticed you can compose html mail with a sort of "RichTextBox", but only in IE on Windows, I believe. By using some fancy smancy dhtml, the Hotmail coders have made a pretty fancy smancy text entry control. Not that you couldn't make this for Mozilla/Netscape 6, but they didn't.
Hey, that's okay, it's Microsoft that's footing the bill for Hotmail. I'm not upset yet. In fact I wonder why they don't do more! I'd like to be able to, for instance, drag messages from one folder to another. How hard can it be to do that? Not hard at all if we're limiting ourselves to the very specific platform of IE 6+ on Windows.
By this time, and after hitting a few potholes of sorts jarring my neck and blaming Gates for each one, I remembered MSN Explorer. I've never used it, but it sounds neat. From the site, this "wonderful" program is described as:
MSN Explorer is Microsoft's all-in-one software that delivers everything you need to feel at home on the Web. E-mail, instant messaging, Web browsing, and more are integrated in a friendly program...
Well heck, here's an application that handles everything from Hotmail to instant messaging to goodness knows what! A little scary, but Outlook Express for Macintosh OS 9 integrates with Hotmail and it's a pretty neat feature. Perhaps this MSN Explorer is IE 6 on steroids, and seemlessly does all that iApp stuff people do on the Net every day.
Then it struck me. Waaaait a minute. Seems like there was another application suite that checked email, let you browse, and instant message all in one package. Hrm, anybody remember Netscape 4.x Communicator? How about Mozilla today (though I still haven't learned how to use IRC)? Both are suites that do the exact same thing, but without the Hotmail extensions (although some people are working on that, too). Remember when I say, "same thing", I haven't yet used MSN Explorer (but will try it if I can get the idea that it's got to have spyware in it out of my head).
Can it really be that Microsoft is 4-5 years behind the curve on offering this sort of application? I think they are. What's more, I know they've stuck a link to this app in the Start menu of Windows XP (though I haven't messed with XP any more than to make sure my latest VB app works there). Fair playing field? Not exactly. Like all other MSapps, they might start off inferior, but eventually they become decent peers and that icon on the desktop or in the start menu becomes a big problem for the new guys on the block.
Luckily it doesn't bother me so much from a practical standpoint. If these jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none apps keep popping up and increase in popularity, specialist apps that do one bit and do it well will continue to thrive. And I'm more interested in hacking one of those than making the next Mozilla/MSN Explorer. And I'm oh-so-savvy enough (;^D) not to stop because an icon on my desktop opened an app that seemed "good enough".
One more note: A friend was reading web logs from his web log (logs from a blog?), and came across Crazy Browser. Turns out this actually looks neat. Crazy Browser shamelessly steals ideas away from other browsers like Mozilla and then slaps those ideas around the Microsoft Internet Control, aka the IE engine.
If there's one thing that drives me crazy, it's that Microsoft says they can't take the icon of IE off the desktop. They most certainly can, and if there wasn't an "IE" by default, we'd have tons of Crazy Browsers out there duking it out. That the IE engine is in the OS isn't a problem at all. That an icon to IE itself, with all the trimmings, is something of a problem, I think.