For who-knows-how-long, I've been annoyed at how internet shortcuts on the "Links" toolbar and Favorites menu in IE would freely choose to open in a new window instead of opening in the window from which I clicked the shortcut. I suspected this was because the favorites saved not only the internet address of the shortcut, but the name of the window as well. Or something like that.
Well I installed Windows XP Service Pack 1 last night, which seemed to mostly consist of hundreds of obscure bugfixes that address things I don't even care about. But I just noticed that the few favorites that always opened their own windows are opening where I ASK for them now! Woohoo!
Another change in SP1 is the addition of the "Set Program Access and Defaults" feature, which I think I remember reading about a while ago. It's another result of the antitrust/monopoly/whatever case against Microsoft. Supposedly, this will allow you to "disable" the software embedded in the OS (Such as IE) and use your own (such as Netscape). It's Microsoft's answer to a court order to not force customers to use their software just because they bought their OS. But it's a bunch of bullshit because IE will STILL be the first browser the user sees after they install the OS. It will be there and functional until/unless they actually go in and disable it. Personally, I think the main complaint from makers of other browsers is that many customers won't even KNOW that other browsers exist simply because when they start their computers for the first time, IE is there.
Unfortunately there's no easy answer, because the main problem isn't that people don't have a choice. The problem is that the people who KNOW they can make a choice are free to do so, but those who DON'T know they can make a choice end up using IE because that's what was placed in front of them. Microsoft is acting like a catch-all to take advantage of this and I think that's what's seen as unfair.
When the problem is that people don't realize they can make a choice, making it easier to enforce a choice while still suggesting an option accomplishes nothing. I hate to say this, but I don't think it's Microsoft's fault. People need to be more aware of their options, and I'm not so sure that's Microsoft's responsibility. Sure, we could lay it on OS makers to not include ANY "default x" software, and to bring up a dialog the first time a user tries to surf the web or check e-mail saying that they must select a software package, listing several of the major contenders, but I think that's absurd, not to mention the controversy that would arise over what should be considered a major contender. No, the OS can't be responsible for providing the user with software options.
Perhaps what we need is an independently run, but official website that keeps track of all the software options out there. An OS could provide direct access to the information on that site (not using an embedded browser, mind-you, but a customized piece of code designed only for accessing this one site) to present it to the user for making a selection. Yeah, that's the best solution I can come up with right now.