Microsoft recently announced that they were dropping IE for the Mac because Safari is better due to it having access to the underlying Mac API (see Scoble for a bunch of relevant links. I guess you could have figure that out for yourself though). Besides all the irony involved in this, it just doesn't seem like Microsoft to just give up on a market. I just don't get it, especially coming after the announcement that IE can't be upgraded without a change to the underlying OS. But here's my knee-jerk reaction.
Conspiracy theory #1 says that Microsoft is getting the heck out Macintosh land. I haven't heard much about Office 2003 on Apple yet. Of course, I'm not exactly Mr. Current Events when it comes to MacOS news. Edit: Providing once again I'm an idiot, the Mac edition of Office is right on track according to this CNet article.
Conspiracy theory #2 says that Microsoft is going to try to reinvent the World Wide Web, Microsoft Style. Changing the browser in ways that a new OS can only deal with sounds to me like some pretty major security changes. Changes that they can't do on the Mac. Or on Linux for that matter. Any major change on the browser that deep in security would almost dictate a change on the server side of things too. Changes I would think would be difficult, if not impossible for software like Apache or Netscape's server to keep up with. You want secure internet browsing? Get Microsoft Windows 2006. You want to provide a secure connection to your clients? Get Microsoft Windows 2006 Server. Built for Security. Or something like that.
Now, Microsoft can do whatever the heck they want in 2006 with their OSes (OSs? OS's?). That's their business, and from what I've read about Longhorn and security it looks good to me. My concern is where ASP.NET is going to be. ASP.NET doesn't target anything besides IE well, and Microsoft is dropping IE. Where does that put us in the future? Designing sites that only target people running Longhorn? I hope not.
Now those are just some slashdot style knee-jerk reactions. I'll make the assumption that Microsoft has far too many smart people working for it to go that route. But glaring at us right now is Microsoft's disintrest in supporting the web standards. By not fully supporting the DOM, CSS1 and CSS2 for another 3 years Microsoft is effectively stalling web development as it stands. I can't use the stupid min-width tag because IE is stupid.
And what really sucks is there is seemingly nothing we can do about it, and Microsoft knows this. No way can any company move to Firebird. Too many crappy web developers only target IE. No way you can get those crappy web developers to take Firebird into account because not enough people run it (although that number is going up). Not to mention trying to get ASP.NET to produce valid HTML is pretty tough (and I think XHTML is impossible without some serious hacks). Serious lock-in. And it is starting to eat at me.
I don't care about IE lacking a popup blocker, themeing, tab browsing or whatever bell and whistles that other browsers have now. That only effects the single person using that browser. By Microsoft refusing to support web standards, it hurts the entire web.