A good friend of mine, Craig Froehle, posted to his blog today an entry regarding “What Should Be Included in an Operating System?“. In his entry he questions why certain applications are included in the OS and poses the idea that consumers should be afforded the option of purchasing an OS with fewer features for less money. It’s an interesting article, but from my perspective, I’m more concerned by the fact that certain applications are mandatory and integrated into the OS, more than the fact that I’m being charged extra for them. I don’t think having the option to purchase Windows XP without Internet Explorer (IE) would reduce the price by much, if at all, so I’m OK with the fact that it comes with XP. However I DO have a problem with the fact that IE is so tightly integrated into the OS and that I can’t remove it easily and neither will the average person given the complexity of the procedure.
Internet Explorer is not integral to the OS, yet I can’t easily remove it. Should a web browser be included with an Operating System? Yes, I think it should, however, it’s just a web browser and other than “desktop domination”, I cannot think of any valid reason why it should be integrated to the OS. Personally I don’t use Internet Explorer. I use Opera, or Firefox as my web browser because I find them better and more secure, yet I can’t remove IE (and all the security holes it enables) because it’s been integrated with the OS. Same thing with Outlook Express (OE). I’m stuck with those apps and they HAVE to be installed on my system. I don’t use either application, yet they remain firmly embedded in my install of Windows XP.
Now you may be thinking, “So what, you don’t use the programs, so who cares if they take up a little space on your hard drive?” Well, I’m not just being picky and trying to uninstall something so that my system is more streamlined, or pure. The reason that I want to uninstall these programs is because they represent HUGE security holes and require constant upgrading and monitoring. Because IE and OE are mandatory on my system and because they are integrated into the OS itself, should a security hole present itself in IE, that hole is now integrated into OE and the OS as well. So the fact that I can open an e-mail and crash my system is mostly due to the fact that Windows has so tightly integrated their software. The very idea that I could do something as benign as open an e-mail and bring my system to it’s knees is ludicrous – yet it’s a daily reality for Windows users.
I could go on-and-on regarding Windows security issues, but luckily Scott Granneman did that for me in his article Linux vs. Windows Viruses. It’s an excellent read on some very basic and undeniable security flaws in Windows and why OS X and Linux are more secure and reliable Operating Systems. As he sums up in his article, “To mess up a Linux box, you need to work at it; to mess up your Windows box, you just need to work on it.”
So although I do wish Windows was less expensive and Craig’s thoughts on being able to choose which supplemental software you’d like included are interesting, I’d settle for just being able to secure what I have. Allow me to uninstall Outlook Express and Internet Explorer and I’d dance in the streets. 🙂