Microsoft's IE9 off limits to most Windows PCs

Microsoft may have a tough time building significant market share for its new Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser because eligible users are in the minority.

Microsoft may have a tough time building significant market share for its new Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser because eligible users are in the minority.

Several analysts agreed that Microsoft has its work cut out for it, at least in the short term, because IE9 won't run on Windows XP, the aged-but-still-dominant operating system.

Microsoft omitted the still-popular XP from the supported OS list because, among other things, IE 9 speeds up page rendering and composition by tapping the graphics processor in newer PCs. Windows XP lacks support for the Direct2D API, which IE9 uses to accelerate content rendering.

The decision means that only a subset of machines will be able to run IE9, either in its preview or final form, until those systems and Windows XP are replaced by new hardware and Windows 7 .

"That's an issue in terms of growth, at least for the next 12 to 18 months as more companies and consumers migrate to Windows 7," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC. For that reason and others, Hilwa said not to expect a "tidal wave change in browser share. Microsoft's battle is not to lose much more share."

Worldwide, Windows XP PCs outnumber all other Windows-equipped machines by two to one, according to the most recent statistics from Web metrics company Net Applications.

In August, Windows XP powered 66.7 per cent of the globe's Windows systems that went online in the month, while the three-year-old Vista accounted for 15.3 per cent and 2009's Windows 7 for 17.4 per cent.

Older versions of Windows, including Windows 2000, Windows 98 and Windows Millennium, made up the small remainder.

Even in the U.S., where Windows XP has a smaller slice of the Windows pie, the aging operating system remains in the majority. But its margin is much narrower. Here, Windows XP ran on 52.1 per cent of all Windows PCs used to browse the Web last month, while Vista accounted for 27 per cent and Windows 7 for 20.8 per cent.

Windows' total share in the U.S. is significantly lower than its global share -- 83.5 per cent for the U.S., 91.3 per cent worldwide -- in part because Apple's Mac OS X is more popular in the United States than in most other countries. Net Applications, for example, pegged Mac OS X with a global share of 5 per cent in August, but a U.S. share of 11.2 per cent.

Other experts agreed with Hilwa that leaving out Windows XP is a problem for Microsoft's IE9 plans.

"This is a major shortcoming of the IE9 strategy," said Ray Valdes of Gartner in an interview Wednesday after the launch of the browser's beta . "And it's an opportunity for competitors to continue to chip away from IE's share."

Al Gillen, a colleague of Hilwa's at IDC seconded that. "The short term potential for IE9 is limited," Gillen said, noting that the new browser's numbers should pick up when Microsoft eventually offers it to Vista and Windows 7 users via Windows Update.

Microsoft has not set a final release for IE9, and Wednesday again declined to put a firm date on the final. Speculation has centered on an April 2011 release, which would coincide with MIX, the company's annual Web conference that's scheduled to run April 12-14, 2011, in Las Vegas.

Browser rivals have used IE9's no-XP policy as marketing ammunition. New versions from Mozilla and [Google] , for example, are to land later this year with limited hardware acceleration under XP .

"Firefox accelerates for Windows XP users too, something Microsoft says they can't do," said Aza Dotzler, Mozilla's lead technology evangelist, last week. "If Mozilla can accelerate browsing for the hundreds of millions of PC users on Microsoft's Windows XP, why can't Microsoft?"

Chrome will also feature partial hardware acceleration for Windows XP with version 7, which should be in users' hands in two months or less.

IE8, which debuted in March 2009 and currently has a 31.4 per cent share, will be the most modern Microsoft browser available to Windows XP users through the operating system's support cut-off in April 2014.

Net Applications measures operating system usage share by mining data acquired from the 160 million unique visitors who browse the 40,000 Web sites it monitors for clients.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags operating systemwindows xpmicrosoft ie9

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?