Internet Explorer and the diminishing Windows support

With the first release of IE10, and officially stating it won’t support Windows Vista, it gets me thinking.

Where we are – support and OS market share

Windows chose not to support Windows XP users with IE9, although Windows XP currently has a staggering 54% of the operating system market share. Amongst many things, this led to the HTML5 for XP initiative, since all other web browsers think Windows XP users deserve a right to be able to experience HTML5.

And now Microsoft has decided to not support Windows Vista with IE10, and will only support Windows 7. Windows Vista has 10% of the OS market share, which gives a total sum of 64% of the operating system market share in the world that Microsoft will not support with modern versions of Internet Explorer.

I recently attended Microsoft’s MIX conference, but in the slides there and talking about IE10, they were only showing operating system market share in the US (which naturally is a completely different number). I do hope that they keep paying attention the worldwide number, and that that was just for the context-specific presentation.

Microsoft’s arguments

Microsoft’s comment on this is:

…continuing to drive the kind of innovation that only happens when you take advantage of the ongoing improvements in modern operating systems and modern hardware.

I’ve heard similar sentiments from a number of directions from Microsoft, that the focus is to basically build for the latest to utilize what’s available there. My guess is that they have gotten tired of spending time on backwards compatibility, and generally want only one version of Internet Explorer.

While I understand their objectives, I think they are missing two major things:

Everything doesn’t have to be eye-candy

The implication I get from Microsoft’s statements and seeing the keynote at MIX, is that everything in HTML5 is eye-candy. You throw in canvas, SVG, video and what have you not, combined with CSS transitions and transforms (preferably 3D), and then you get an HTML5 page. The thing is, though, HTML5 is so much more than that.

Looking at semantic elements, History API, File API, offline applications, custom data attributes etc etc. Lots of things that can improve web pages and the user experience, thing that will help most regular web sites who won’t be developing canvas-svg-video games all the time. I believe these users deserve to be able to take part of the HTML5 experience, and if their performance experience doesn’t match that of Windows 7, I still think it’s valuable to them and that they will be just fine with the experience they are getting.

Not everyone will, or can, upgrade

I do understand that it is in Microsoft’s interest to sell Windows – they are a money-making company, it’s one of their products they do make money from and I have full respect for that. However, it’s not as simple as “just upgrade”. One of the thing is costs: getting licenses for a new version, and possibly needed hardware too, will cost good money, and if you are, for instance, in a poor region or in a multinational company with several hundreds of thousands of employees, that’s a cost that doesn’t always make sense (or is even possible). And for many home users, the cost will far exceed the benefits of an upgrade.

The other part is about incentive. Personally, I have a hard time seeing anyone update their operating system just to get a newer version of Internet Explorer – especially when all the competitors are available on the other main operating systems provided by Microsoft. Sure, if they have other reasons to upgrade and deem it worth the cost, but only for a new, albeit faster, web browser version? I don’t think so, at least.

What are your thoughts?

I have a great respect for the improvements Microsoft are making with Internet Explorer, both in performance and improved web standards support. However, I can’t decide if this is a really bold move that might pay off, or if it’s completely overestimating the possible results.

And, I am very curious: what are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Developing,HTML5/HTML/XHTML,Technology,Web browsers |

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