Tuesday, 15 March 2011 20:23

Win XP won't dine on MS browser IE 9


IE9 is here - in final form at last, as XP lovin' users watch it just zoom right past. Windows 7 gets to see a web of beauty spun, but for XP users all - it won't even get a run!

The final version of Microsoft's latest browser, Internet Explorer 9 or IE9, has finally arrived for Windows Vista and Windows 7 PCs, but not Windows XP, after a previous release candidate and beta versions before it.

In that time, Google's Chrome has gone through several revisions, Firefox continues its march towards version 4, Opera continues to flourish and is even being built into some of Sony's latest 2011 TVs to enable browsing right through the TV - sans PC, iPad 2 or anything else.

Apple's Safari continues its Trojan-like march through the installation of iTunes and the popularity of its iDevices, but Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still a force to be reckoned with.

Microsoft says IE9 is 'designed to bring web sites front and centre' in Windows 7, which means that web apps and sites benefit from the hardware acceleration capabilities of your computer, can display smoother and better graphical experiences and benefit from desktop app-like performance.

IE9 also lets you place links to your favourite sites directly on the Windows taskbar, adding to the web app as desktop app illusion.

IE9 certainly benefits from the hardware acceleration capabilities and will undoubtedly be a popular download with Windows 7 users and those still using Vista, but the competition hasn't been sleeping, working on equipping their own browsers on hardware acceleration too.

Still, Microsoft now has a new browser to promote, new capabilities to promote it with, and more competition that ever before in the browser market.

With over 40 million downloads of the beta, IE9 certainly had to be bold to be taken notice of, but it is a shame Microsoft has decided to make IE9 unavailable for computers running Windows XP.

As Ovum reports, 67% of corporate desktops are still running XP, with Wikipedia's Feb 2011 stats showing 41.15% of all operating systems recorded are still running XP. That a lot of Microsoft users, most of whom have presumably paid to be Microsoft users, who aren't getting the benefits that IE9 delivers.

With the choice of browsers available, IE9 alone is not a compelling enough reason to upgrade on its own, but leaving XP out of the compatibility list is simply an obvious gambit to speed up as many upgrades or outright purchases of new Windows 7 equipped machines as possible. While consumers are easier upgrade targets, especially at today's low prices for desktop and notebook computers, corporates and other organisations take longer to replace their fleets - while seeing potential future alternatives from the world of tablets evolve before their eyes.

Indeed, while Microsoft launches its new IE9 browser on what is the ides of March, is it a sign of doom for Microsoft's hopes of a bigger browser market share, or a sign of doom for its competitors?


Perhaps it's a sign of doom for desktop computing as we know it, with even Ovum pointing towards the browser wars migrating to smartphones and tablets.

What else of IE9's improvements, from who is already using them to whose technologies control the screens of the future... on page two. Please read on!



Of course, upcoming Windows 7 powered tablets can run IE9 with all of its hardware accelerated HTML5, but Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 waits for the promised upgrade with HTML5 capability later this year.

And Microsoft's truly tablet-optimised operating system, Windows 8, which will presumably be some polished evolution of Windows 7's capabilities and Windows Phone 7's interface, is still at least a year away, if not longer.

That said, a billion PCs still run Windows, and Microsoft isn't exactly seeing an exodus despite alternative browser popularity to Internet Explorer.

It needed to offer a modern, capable browser, and IE9 is it. Naturally, Microsoft Australia launch the product down under, with its consumer product marketing manager, Melissa Dewick, excited to say that 'Internet Explorer 9 enables websites to look and perform as if they were native to your PC by unlocking the power and performance of the best PC hardware and Windows.'

Microsoft says that over '250 top sites from around the globe are taking advantage' of IE9's capabilities, with 'more than 1,000 other sites and designers are taking advantage of these new features, including Facebook and Amazon.'

Microsoft had web developer, author and evangelist John Allsop state that he believes that IE9 is 'the firing gun for the future of the web as an application platform' which will open up a 'whole range of new opportunities for developers and devices' and that 'the next generation is a web of applications and we are going to be seeing screens everywhere."

The question is, of course, whose screens. Those of their owners, of course, but whose OS and browser will be powering those screens? Google? Microsoft? Apple? Facebook? A company that starts next year and produces a game changer that changes everything - again?

Microsoft has added improved security, improved anti-phishing and better tracking protection, while simplifying further the user interface - something that harks towards the approach that Google's Chrome has taken, while keeping the URL bar at the top of the screen, with tabs at the right or optionally underneath, but not above.

The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to continue using an older version of Internet Explorer, if you're a Windows 7 user, upgrading is a good idea - while ensuring you have other, updated browsers at your disposal, too. 

Naturally, as with all upgrades, not everyone will be happy. Inevitable stories of add-ons not working properly or issues with sites will occur - it's the way it is with all new browsers, and updates will come. Some people will downgrade back to IE8, while others will think it's the best thing and browser since the blink tag visually sliced itself into oblivion. Some will feel whatever emotion it is they feel and continue using whatever browsers they already use, while some won't want it at all.

Whatever is said, what we get through the web and how we see it is continuously evolving, from cloud services to end-client hardware acceleration - the web of tomorrow is more advanced than the web of today, just as it's vastly more powerful than the web of the Mosaic or Lynx eras. All browsers are evolving to deliver this future, and we're living through the middle of it all, every online day.

With IE9, Microsoft's new browser is here, and on Windows 7 tablets with capacitive screens, it's Microsoft's latest multi-touch browsing experience too, while still being an improved keyboard and mouse browser for everyone else as well.

Ovum might say the browser wars are headed to the smartphone and tablet spaces, which I don't disagree with, but the billion strong traditional desktop, notebook and new, more powerful Win 7 slate and convertible tablets is far from dead, and neither is the traditional, ever evolving, increasingly important and yet still humble web browser.

Concluded on page three, please read on!

It's just a shame that Windows XP users aren't able to enjoy the choice of using IE9 on their computers, as all the alternatives continue working, and improving, unabated.


Although Windows 7 will grow in strength, XP is still a large market for whom Microsoft's version of a beauty-enabled web simply does not exist and is not even a choice, being permanently left off the list.

Apple can afford to do this when it introduces new technologies and software. Microsoft has acted in the same way previously, and clearly feels it is able to do so now - without bringing XP users along for the ride. I wonder if this decision might not be altered sometime in the future, especially if more secure versions of Firefox and Chrome grow in popularity on XP machines?

There's a long time between now and 2014, after all, for the end of all XP updates, and by then there probably won't be that many XP users left.

In 2014, most will have long since upgraded to Windows 8, 9 or 10. the iPad 5or some future GooFace tablet which resulted from the great and fictional Google Facebook merger of 2013, and ended up being the titanic event that the Mayans foresaw and clearly completely misunderstood all those many thousands of years ago due.

Ok, so that future might not happen, and IE9 on XP may never happen either. But for those on Vista or Windows 7, Microsoft's vision and version of the future web is demonstrated at its "Beauty of the Web" site, which is also where you can download the new IE9 browser.



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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