Internet Explorer 6 – Another Case of Microsoft Shooting Itself In The Foot

Just when Microsoft thought it had done all the right things to force businesses to upgrade to Windows 7, news comes of the fact that many are sticking to Windows XP, simply because the upgrade to Windows 7, and resultant loss of the use of IE6, would break the upgrade budgets.

Microsoft might have thought a bit more about cooperation back in 2001, because its pigheaded behavior then is costing it in sales now. A little bit of standards compliance would have gone a long way.

I can hear Steve Ballmer complaining about the lack of an IE6-compatibility-mode in the newer versions of Internet Exploder now! (Of course, that is impossible, but it certainly is something to envision, isn’t it?)

I’m certain that Marc Andreessen has had more than a few chuckles over this one.

From ComputerWorld comes a nifty little tale about the problems being encountered by the Microsoft (to Internet Exploder 6) faithful.

Enterprises addicted to Microsoft’s nine-year-old Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) browser are having a tough time migrating to Windows 7, an analyst said today.

And although Microsoft has made it clear it wants IE6 dead and buried, the company needs to help solve a problem it created when it released the non-standard browser, then pressed businesses to develop IE6-specific applications, said Michael Silver of Gartner.

“Microsoft would rather put the non-standard browser technology behind it,” Silver said in a recently published research report.

Easy for Microsoft to say; it doesn’t have to deal with the IE6 fallout.

According to Gartner, IE6 compatibility problems will cause at least one-in-five organizations to take longer than expected or spend more than they budgeted for their Windows 7 migration projects.

I find it hard to feel sorry for Microsoft, because it was so self-satisfied when it put the screws to Netscape, and hard to feel sorry for those businesses, for they have fallen into complacency, and now it has caused all of this. Had either party done anything to change over the past years, as the world was changing so rapidly, much of the trouble could have been spread out over time. Now the shot clock is ticking down, and the ball is going flat.

“Microsoft needs to explore all avenues that could ease the transitions away from IE6,” Silver added as he spelled out ways the company could lower barriers to Windows 7 adoption, something obviously in its interest.

The latest statistics from Web metrics company Net Applications pegged IE6′s usage share at 15.6%, which means it’s the world’s third-most-used browser edition. Many of the holdouts are enterprises locked into IE6 because the commercial software or home-grown applications they use work only in that browser.

Organizations running IE6 have told Gartner that 40% of their custom-built browser-dependent applications won’t run on IE8, the version packaged with Windows 7. Thus many companies face a tough decision: Either spend time and money to upgrade those applications so that they work in newer browsers, or stick with Windows XP.

Or, as I am certain at least a few at Microsoft have envisioned, purchasing Windows 7 Professional or 7 Ultimate, so that Windows XP could be run virtually inside it. However, that entails more setup time per computer, more upkeep, and higher hardware requirements. But Microsoft scores, as the price of Professional or Ultimate is much higher, for little return on the investment.

But Windows XP won’t live forever. Microsoft will retire Windows XP from all support in April 2014, forcing businesses to abandon it or risk running an operating system vulnerable to attack.

Fixing homemade applications so that they run in IE8 is the surest solution, but also the most expensive. And every temporary workaround has a downside, said Silver.

Anyone who would standardize on any Microsoft browser at this point is a full-on dimwit, and deserves the Homer Simpson Award. Using any other browser would be the ideal, as any other browser development team pays more attention to standards than Microsoft does. Also, by making the applications independent of the Microsoft browser, fewer problems ill be encountered when Microsoft gets a wild hair to make another browser incompatible with a newer OS. As most can see, browsers from other vendors are much more flexible, as the recent versions of Opera work fine on Windows versions back to 98 – it has only been in the last month that compatibility for those OS’s was dropped.

The most promising of the latter is to use application virtualization tools to virtualize only IE6 — not, as in OS virtualization, an entire operating system — so that it can be run in Windows 7.

But Microsoft opposes IE virtualization because it says the process violates licensing agreements. The stance hasn’t been tested in court — Microsoft hasn’t sued vendors like VMware and Symantec that provide application virtualization tools — but the uncertainty makes companies jittery.

“It’s ironic that Microsoft would oppose methods that would help organizations accelerate the move to Windows 7,” said Silver in his research note. “Microsoft must do more to help organizations with their IE6 problems that Microsoft helped cause.”

This all or nothing approach is not new. Microsoft has forced changes before, and really does not seem to care about it. This time, the economy being in shambles should turn away some of that ridiculous thought, but perhaps not – Mr. Ballmer has done other stupid things recently. Remember the three week run of Microsoft Kin?

If Microsoft doesn’t want customers virtualizing IE6, then it should help out in other ways, perhaps by heavily discounting or even giving away Windows Server 2003 and associated client licenses so that companies can access IE6 — and only the browser — through April 2014 using Terminal Server.

There’s an idea, actually working with the customer toward an equitable solution. No, that just doesn’t sound like the new Microsoft.

“Organizations need to resolve IE problems and begin their migrations to Windows 7 as soon as possible,” said Silver “And Microsoft needs to do more to help.”

Of course, they could spend lots of money on those custom applications, but make it up on the non-purchase of Linux, or a BSD solution. There would be a certain amount of employee learning needed, but when you spend nothing on many licenses of an operating system, you tend to have a few dollars to throw around on training.

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Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.

John F. Kennedy

George Bush and his ilk certainly have not studied this. On the other hand, we might have gotten better out of President Obama, too.

Opera, the fastest and most secure web browser

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