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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 - another business tax

Microsoft has a new browser, but it is not for anyone running Windows XP64 or below! That's right, Microsoft has taken a stance that they would rather lose IE market share than support their own Operating Systems. Granted XP is 10 years old and about to be phased out of support, but XP64 is only 7 years old and has been overlooked by Microsoft since Vista 64 was released. I am so glad I spent $300 for a copy of it to be constantly left out of the 64 bit loop simply because I was an early supporter!

I just read an interesting article where Mr. Methvin of InformationWeek describes older versions of IE as the hidden tax of web development. I don't disagree with his position as it is true that older versions of IE do add to development costs and time, thanks to their lack of standards compliance.

I added that there is another very real tax that Microsoft places on the serious web community each time it releases a new browser. It's true you don't normally hear about it from the marketing engines or the mainstream press in regards to the costs it places on the companies, but behind the scenes the IT departments buckle down for another very expensive episode of preventing the "critical update" and determining whether or not to re-write a major portion of their internal sites to work with the latest IE. This it the other tax that Microsoft places on all companies each time it releases a new browser - the cost of redesigning parts of their sites to keep it functional in the new IE.

Yet again, the list of sites that have issues with a new version of IE is growing and the IE9 users are running to the forums of these companies and demanding that the companies "fix" their sites to work with IE9.

Let's not forget the MS has yet again set their browser "upgrade" as a critical update thus forcing IT staffs world-wide to spend cycles ensuring their Vista and Windows 7 boxes will not be upgraded until they have tested all internal and business dependent external sites will work with IE9. The testing is not free, it's a very exhaustive and expensive process and even when the IT department is confident that the latest version of IE9 can be safely released to a sub-population of the company's staff they often times find themselves up all night trying to fix an issue that a few employees discover breaks their ability to do their jobs or that a VP discovers breaks a special system they had not shared with the department. I speak from experience and although I love that Microsoft is why I had income I don't enjoy being forced to stay up all night to ensure my company can do their jobs.

My advice to all those companies is to let IE die and begin using real browsers that design themselves to work with the standards and include features to ensure sites that already exist are displayed and function correctly. Not all of those browsers will be able to perform the functions that IE6 or Netscape did or in-house development, but they may be able to take over for some areas and free your IT department from the chore that is IE "upgrade" testing.

It is time for the bully on the block to learn that every time they build another car the countries of the world should not have to redesign their roads.

I find that every time I author a site I have to design for real browsers, then drop in hacks for IE. IE is the hidden cost, not just IE6 or 7, but IE period. IE9 may be the best yet at standards compliance, yet there are discussions about CSS issues that didn't exit in IE8 and even companies like Facebook have users complaining about basic functions being broken for them in IE9.

Microsoft can know that I, for one, will not develop for IE9. If my site looks okay on IE9, then great, but as an end-user that doesn't have one of their "new" Operating systems I have no way to test for it, and I could careless to develop for something that I cannot get easy access to.

The only new cool feature I see in IE9 is the 3D graphic rendering engine. Call me a pessimist but I see the so-called "integration with Windows 7" as just a great thing to be exploited via another set of lovely security loop-holes. Honestly, the age of playing games in the browser is just around the corner and I can assure you Microsoft will not be the only contender with full 3D rendering.

Before I go, I will share what I like about IE9. I like that they finally woke-up and presented a GUI that is about surfing the web and not about toolbars. It is almost where IE6 was but with tabs, in that you can move everything to one bar at the top, sadly, though they aren't quite as good at providing room as the Chrome browser, but they are very close (as a matter of fact at quick glance it looks almost identical). I'll never forget the bullet point of IE7 that it provided more real-estate for viewing the web, but literally had three locked rows, all rows that could be moved into one row on IE6. Yeah, that's progress "Microsoft style!"