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The popularity of common type products & Internet Explorer

The conversation in an ad for Bajaj XCD and a tweet triggered this post. In the Bajaj ad, a regular bloke is shown not only preferring ‘common type’ solutions for his ‘ordinary’ life but rejecting outright what is seen as opulent and stylish. In other words anything stylish or luxurious is not good for the majority who can be assumed to be ‘common type’.

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Cartoon sourced from here.

In the tech world, I see a similarity. Most consumers and Tech Support managers in offices prefer anything Microsoft – be it the operating system, mail or the browser. They refuse to look beyond it because of the comfort in familiarity and fear of treading into the unknown. More importantly, they are happy with ‘common type’ tasks that they perform and don’t see the need to try anything new. When it comes to browsing, they swear by the good ol’ Internet Explorer. They also go ‘hey, how do I download this YouTube video?’ and go through a lengthy process of finding an FLV converter, pasting the URL, downloading it and playing the video in a Trial Version application. I have seen this happen so many times. But they will not be inclined to try out Firefox, install video plugins and make life simpler. No wonder that IE has a dominant share (though it is losing share of late). And when features that have been around in other browsers for ages, come about in IE, it is hailed as revolutionary and there is wide-eyed glee about it. Ditto with operating systems.

Is it because of lack of choice, forced or otherwise? In India, we were used to forced monopoly in several categories: automobiles, telecom, airlines, power supply to name a few. When the Govt. opened up some of these sectors the lead player who too market dominance for granted was forced to change his attitude. The Govt played a role in so far as changing the regulations. In the OS and browser world, MS pretty much muscled its way in bundling the OS and the browser. And through some clever bundling of products it has pretty much forced big business to stick with its products thus making it habitual. In India, where the initiation to the world of computers is through Windows and IE. So a function of habit, coupled with the average consumer’s reluctance to try new stuff works to their advantage. It’s like someone growing up on a diet of Vividh Bharati finding the newfangled FM radios, not quite to his taste. Sure big business should not be allowed to muscle their way in and they must give the consumer a choice. But does the consumer want choice when it come to browsers and the OS?

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