The NYT has been catching up on the Firefox phenomenon. (Wonder if that two-page ad had anything to do with it?) Randall Stross has an hilarious article in today’s paper under the headling “The Fox Is in Microsoft’s Henhouse (and Salivating)”! It includes quotes from the guy Microsoft has charged with responding to Firefox. Here’s a sample:

“Gary Schare, Microsoft’s director of product management for Windows, has been assigned the unenviable task of explaining how Microsoft plans to respond to the Firefox challenge with a product whose features were last updated three years ago. He has said that current users of Internet Explorer will stick with it once they take into account ‘all the factors that led them to choose I.E. in the first place.’ Beg your pardon. Choose? Doesn’t I.E. come bundled with Windows?

Mr. Schare has said that Mozilla’s Firefox must prove it can smoothly move from version 1.0 to 2.0, and has thus far enjoyed ‘a bit of a free ride.’ If I were the spokesman for the software company that included the company’s browser free on every Windows PC, I’d be more careful about using the phrase ‘free ride.’

Trying to strike a conciliatory note, Mr. Schare has also declared that he and his company were happy to have Firefox as ‘part of the large ecosystem’ of software that runs on Windows. In fact, Firefox is ecumenically neutral, being available also for both the Mac and for Linux.

Mr. Schare may be the official spokesman, but he does not use Internet Explorer himself. Instead he uses Maxthon, published by a little company of the same name. It uses the Internet Explorer engine but provides loads of features that Internet Explorer does not. ‘Tabs are what hooked me,’ he told me, referring to the ability to open within a single window many different Web sites and move easily among them, rather than open separate windows for each one and tax the computer’s memory. Firefox has tabs. Other browsers do, too. But fundamental design decisions for Internet Explorer prevent the addition of this and other desiderata without a thorough update of Windows, which will not be complete until 2006 at the earliest.”