There hasn’t been a more exciting time for browsers. They’ve become so much more than a tool for accessing the internet. Many of us are very specific about the kind of browser we use. Mozilla, Google and Opera have been busy releasing new updates for their browsers over the last month or so, and the community is more than happy to try each one of them and choose a browser that they would deem usable on a more permanent basis. I, for one, have an installation of Firefox 4, a stable and a development build of Google Chrome, Opera and K-Meleon installed at all times. I particularly like the font rendering on Safari as well. Mozilla is firing on all pistons plotting out three major releases in this year itself.

IE9 arrives

Microsoft too has also been hard at work on their Internet Explorer browser for a very long time. Mozilla took more than a year to release Firefox 4 and Microsoft has been at it for a similar period of time. There was some excitement when IE9 launched and records were broken, but a lot of the hype died out soon after Mozilla launched Firefox 4. Those who use Internet Explorer 9 will swear by it and to be honest, it has come a very long way since the days of it being known primarily for being an insecure browser. I stopped using Internet Explorer ages ago but I have been using the early beta builds of the latest version.

No cross platform support? What the...

No cross platform support? Say What now?!

I think the interest and hype surrounding Internet Explorer 9 hasn’t been as high as with Firefox 4 and Opera 11, but I’d think everyone using the latest versions of Windows (Vista and Windows 7 specifically) have updated to the latest builds. Windows XP might still be one of the older operating systems but a lot of people around the world still use it. Why has Microsoft then chosen not to extend them support for IE9?

There are plenty of Windows XP users who’ve not really found the need to switch to a newer operating system and they continue to use it quite happily. Windows XP used to be bundled with netbooks till Microsoft withdrew support for it. Netbooks are primarily internet browsing devices so naturally, not having the latest build of Internet Explorer for the OS is quite shocking.

For example, close to half of the users who access Tech2 on a regular basis are still using Windows XP. If these users wanted to use Internet Explorer 9 to access the site, there would be no way to do so. Close to a fourth of the users accessing Tech2 use older versions of Internet Explorer as well. 

Microsoft representatives have been heard saying that the new browser needs to take advantage of a new operating system’s features. It is possible to design a browser that is designed for all versions of the operating system but with some amount of compromise. If hardware acceleration isn’t possible on Windows XP, then it ought to be disabled automatically. Simply not allowing users to use the browser isn’t the ideal way to handle things. If you look at any of the other browser, they work flawlessly on all versions of Windows. Firefox 4 for example, even runs on Windows 2000.

Legal complications

After a legal fiasco involving Microsoft about Internet Explorer being bundled with the OS, Microsoft chose to isolate their browser from the operating system, which is why you can choose to install Internet Explorer as an option in Windows 7. It can even be uninstalled. If Internet Explorer 9 is now a modular application, why is it that IE9 can’t be made available for Windows XP? Firefox, Google’s Chrome browser and even Safari manage to run perfectly fine on pretty much all Windows versions even in this day and age. 

Also, what is it that stops Microsoft from making a browser that works across all platforms? Apple even launched Safari for Windows and has had its fair share of loyal users. Is it a strategic move to get people to upgrade to the latest operating system? I really hope it isn’t.

IE for Mac existed, so why not IE9 for Windows XP?

They’ve done this in the past. If you look at the Mac operating system, Microsoft has had a browser for them even though, back then, Internet Explorer was tightly integrated into the operating system. It was discontinued later. If Microsoft wanted, they could have even built a browser for the Android or iOS platform. Clearly, there is a market for browsers on mobile platforms as well as desktops. Mozilla even released Firefox 4 at around the same time for the Android platform like they did for the desktop version. Microsoft is capable of doing this as well, if they wanted to.

Microsoft will be bringing Internet Explorer 9 to the Windows Phone 7 platform in an update in the future but I think Microsoft, being such a large company, is being a little rigid in its approach. Internet Explorer 9 has become a very mature product after a ton of work and it would only make sense to have it scaled to a mobile platform such as Android or iOS or even one of their own operating systems – Windows XP.

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