I certainly see the point the professors make and think it is a real possibly of what will happen. Don't get me wrong. I love Firefox and hope to see it succeed for many reasons. That is not the point of this post though.
What is the point is how inertia is a key factor of any major software shift in the mainstream market, one side that this assessment overlooks.
The fact is inertia can be as much a hindrance for Microsoft as it is a help. Microsoft has painted themselves into a corner defending in the legal courts and the court of public opinion, stating that the browser is part of the operating system and they were not using their monopolistic power to destroy Netscape, but to innovate. So Microsoft dispatched Internet Explorer as a stand-alone product.
In keeping with this position, the Internet Explorer Microsoft has promised to release in beta form this summer is for Windows XP customers only. Those running Windows 2000 or other versions of Windows are (currently) out of luck. So the adoption of IE7 will be dependent upon operating system upgrades and existing Windows XP users to download and install it.
Our primary machines at home and work are Apple Powerbooks, however I know many people running exclusively Windows and the fact is they dread, kick and cuss at the prospect of upgrading. Not that they dislike or have a problem with Windows XP – well actually they do. The cost in terms of time and money. Much like a trip to the dentist or the department of motor vehicles, most will wait till they have to do it or the pain is too great before doing a Windows upgrade.
For example, since we mentioned dentists, mine was recently telling me that he has to switch their machines to Windows XP soon because the company whose practice management software they use is dropping support for all versions of Windows except XP by the end of year. Upgrading to the latest OS will cost him $200 a machine that he figures it is cheaper to replace the aging though still productive PCs around the office.
Since he runs a thriving business he can absorb the cost of new PCs and Windows upgrades. For the occasional home user this is a big deal and one they don't see the value in until, in their mind, they have to do it.
And this is where I see the inertia potentially going either way or being a wash out in the matter. Unless Microsoft eats their own words and declares IE as a standalone product again, their new browser's impact will be limited and FireFox has its opening to continue to outpace IE and grow its user base despite Microsoft's latest efforts.
What part will inertia play in Microsoft’s renew browser efforts?