What Microsoft's IE9 moves mean for you

Microsoft is making some bold moves in the browser space

Microsoft's Internet Explorer has created some ripples in the browser sector lately, which could have implications regardless of whether you are in the Microsoft Internet Explorer camp. Microsoft said last week it would not make Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) compatible with Windows XP.

Meanwhile, the new browser's share has surged to 3.6 percent in March, ahead of the recently released Firefox 4.02 and Chrome 11.0, which have shares of 2.80 percent and 0.43 percent, respectively, according to analytics firm Net Applications.

Microsoft will likely make some customers irate by not allowing IE9 to work with Windows XP, while its decision also shows that it is focusing its development efforts on future PC browser applications for IE9 that will also likely be cross-compatible with non-PC devices.The majority of Windows users will use Windows 7 and Vista "within a couple of years," anyway, according to Net Applications.

Meanwhile, Microsoft developers are preparing for when that will happen and are likely channeling their efforts on IE9 for PCs and its synergies with applications in the mobile space.

As a recent example of Microsoft's blatant ambitions to make inroads in the mobile space, Microsoft said in March that its latest beta of System Center Configuration Manager 2012 now supports Android, iPads, iPhones, and Symbian devices as well as Windows Phone 7 (it has not included RIM's Blackberry as of yet, though).

In February, Microsoft announced that Nokia phones will adopt the Windows Phone OS, creating possibilities of increased compatibility between Windows PC platforms and Nokia smart phones. Developing compatible Internet-based apps for IE9 and mobile devices will be a lot easier without Windows XP in the mix in the PC space.

But what will this mean for users who don't use any version of IE or even bother much with Windows, for that matter? Not much immediately, although there could be some indirect benefits. For example, if IE maintains or increases its majority share in the browser space, then that makes alternative browsers that must less attractive for malware creators who target the greatest possible number of users.

I have also long suggested that users opt for Firefox over any version of IE that Microsoft has launched for a number of reasons. While I find Firefox's security configuration options easier to manage and use than what IE offers, I also recommend Firefox because it is just plain easy to use. Just compare Firefox's Find function with IE's equivalent as a glaring example.

In the worst case for Microsoft, its mobile efforts could flounder, and yanking IE9 support for Windows XP might just help to sway loyal Widows XP users away from Microsoft products altogether. Users who have already dumped IE for alternative browsers will then obviously not notice or care. However, Microsoft could be developing some interesting Internet-based applications for IE9 that will also be compatible with mobile apps, but I am not holding my breath for that to happen.

Bruce covers tech trends in the United States and Europe.

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Bruce Gain

PC World (US online)
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