I read an article recently by John Siracusa at Ars Technica about The Apple strategy tax. The author describes a “stategy tax” this way:

The essence of a “strategy tax” is something that keeps a company from reaching its full potential. Fielding an inferior product to avoid stepping on the toes of another one of your own products is one example.

The article applies this principle to Apple and the situation it’s in with different business units and their products that could potentially be competing with each other and where one succeeds at the other’s expense.

While thinking about the recent release of Internet Explorer 9, I thought that it would be great if Microsoft decided to go back to using Internet Explorer as the rendering engine for Outlook when displaying HTML emails (or at least allow some sort of flag in the email to allow the sender to request IE as the rendering engine).  The issue here is interesting–one idea I read was that Internet Explorer’s rendering engine could be seen as a threat to the Office team’s rendering engine and that competition within the company resulted in the Office team making a change to using Word to render HTML emails. This sounds plausible, but I’m not sure it’s the case for a couple of reasons.  The first is that the two engines really serve different purposes–one is for displaying web content, while the other is for generating text-centric documents.  The second is that Microsoft is developing a web based version of Word–try getting a team on board using a competing engine to replace what you’ve created.

The real issue, I think is that Microsoft would rather use Word functionality for composing email messages in Outlook for uniformity.  The idea is that by using the Word engine to compose and render email messages, the emails will look the same to the sender and recipient.

The failure here, though, is that HTML emails not composed with Word are rendered by Word–you lose a lot. Emails sent by the recipient expecting the email to be rendered by a modern web browsing engine, do not look right in Word. Perhaps this issue will be taken care of with the evolution of the web based version of Word.  Microsoft has to use a browser as an editor and renderer in a way that mimics the native Word functionality.  Even if the HTML editor is only partially functional, the HTML rendering of Word documents in a way that matches Word’s own rendering is all that is important.  Microsoft could then incorporate that technology into Outlook–using Internet Explorer to render emails in the same way Word would.