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However, IE9 isn't quite up to par with other consumer internet browsers on the market

Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft Corp.'s latest and greatest browser released today in finalized form.  So why should we care?

Well two stories dominated when it comes to IE9.  The first the media will be sure to talk about; the other you'll probably hear little talk of.

I. IE9 as a Consumer Browser -- Not Worth It

First the more obvious story -- Microsoft is improving, but arguably not fast enough.  IE9 looks and feels like a modern browser.  

It also looks and feels noticeably slower than ChromeOpera, or even Firefox.  While the gap is not as wide as in past versions (e.g. IE8, or esp. IE 7) it is visibly apparent.  Open a page on DailyTech in Chrome, and you see text literally seconds a second or two later.  Open the same page in IE 9 and you get a distinct pause as several seconds pass, before article text loads.

This qualitative example is indicative of our test drives of IE9 as a whole.  While the speed isn't horrible, if you've been using a modern browser like Chrome or Opera, you'll definitely get frustrated at the ever-present delay.

Standards support is a remarkably similar story. Microsoft has gained ground by implementing parts of the HTML5 and CSS3 standards, but the percentage of support for these standards is far lower than rival browsers.

We're still in the process of testing the beast, but it looks to support only about a quarter of the HTML5 standard, according to the test The HTML5 Test.  Microsoft would argue that's because the standard isn't fully defined.  But that seems a weak excuse -- that hasn't stopped Opera, Google, and Mozilla from not only taking an active part in the standard, but also support it more fully.

Microsoft finds itself in a familiar role of publicly arguing why it shouldn't have to fully standards -- but in an interesting twist it's now committing itself to a bipolar effort of quietly trying to catch up in these same standards, as well.  The results, as one might imagine, are mixed.

Aside from speed and standards, Microsoft's browser has a clean look to it.  Its sharp defined lines bring to mind Microsoft's Metro GUI style, which the company used extensively on the defunct Zune and the active Windows Phone 7.

The browser lacks, though, cutting edge features being implemented elsewhere like tab stacking/grouping.  And while ostensibly it offers "add-ons"/"extensions", its catalog is anemic to say the least.  Firefox, Opera, and Chrome users will wince at the lack of ad/JavaScript blocking. 

Yet another place where Microsoft falls behind is in the installation process.  IE 9 requires a number of Windows Updates in order be able to install.  For us, one of these updates had been failing several times in Windows Update, so this was a rather painful process.  If Google, Mozilla, and Opera can make stand-alone installers, it's inexcusable that Microsoft, the world's largest software company, can't.

II. IE9 as a Work Browser -- Not so Shabby

So, the other story here is how IE 9 fares in the business setting.  While it languished in the world of home users, Microsoft remains strong in the workplace.  

Overall Firefox and Chrome can be managed, but require a lot more IT effort than IE 9.  Internet Explorer remains the king of business browsers in terms of manageability, security, and reliability.  When you factor in that many business have built their portals' web code to run optimally in Internet Explorer, IE 9 gains yet more of an advantage -- though perhaps a bit unfair one.

At the end of the day, IE 9's improvements will really start to shine for business users.  While IE 9 may seem dated and tardy as a consumer browser, in an IT setting we're used to getting less.  If you were stuck with IE 8 before, IT department willing, you'll get a huge boost with IE 9.

Most in the media, in their rush to note IE 9's insufficiencies from a home user perspective, won't stop to recognize that it is an excellent browser from a business perspective.  We feel this is an equally compelling story and definitely worth noting.

III. Conclusions

Microsoft has two key strengths when it comes to browsers -- its strong business reputation and the fact that, for better or worse, in the U.S. it can still bundle its browser as the exclusive pre-installed browser in Windows.

The company currently owns between 55 and 65 percent of the browser market, depending on whose numbers you trust.  This dominant positions in underpinned by those aforementioned strengths.  

Are people really to lazy to go out and download a third party browser?  In many cases the answer is "yes" (though obviously not for most of our readers).  Thus IE 9 will eventually roll out to these users through the Windows Update process and Microsoft will hang on to its lead.

On the other hand, Microsoft likely recognizes the writing on the wall.  Home users are becoming increasingly educated with each passing decade, and it can't hope to keep relying on its pre-packaged approach to be able to push a sub-par product indefinitely.

In that regard IE 9 is perhaps a sign that Microsoft is getting serious about performance and standards.  And while it’s still far behind in these categories, its large market share arguably buys it the time it needs to catch up.



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By Nutzo on 3/15/2011 12:09:39 PM , Rating: 1
Or maybe they don't want to spend the money replacing hardware, or buying OS upgrades?


By Pirks on 3/15/2011 12:12:12 PM , Rating: 2
Or maybe they want to get free eternal support from MS for their museum software/hardware?


By themaster08 on 3/15/2011 12:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
I'm with Pirks on this one. Windows XP is now 10 years old, and people are complaining that Microsoft's latest browser isn't compatible with it? Then people complain of the bloat in Microsoft's products that is caused by legacy code.

Is 10 years not long enough?


By bug77 on 3/15/2011 12:32:29 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
people are complaining that Microsoft's latest browser isn't compatible with it?


That would be a legitimate complain, since all other producer's browsers are compatible with Win XP.


By themaster08 on 3/15/2011 12:42:51 PM , Rating: 2
TheWorld browser is compatible with Windows 98. Does that mean IE9 should be compatible with Windows 98 too?


By bug77 on 3/15/2011 12:53:05 PM , Rating: 2
No, it still means IE9 is the only major browser that doesn't run on WinXP.


By themaster08 on 3/15/2011 1:09:29 PM , Rating: 1
To reiterate the point that Pirks made, how many XP users are actually up-to-scratch with their updates anyway? Who uses an XP machine to run the latest and greatest applications and DX11 games? Oh, wait....


By PrinceGaz on 3/15/2011 2:12:01 PM , Rating: 2
My XP box is fully up-to-date and is still my main machine (built Aug 2005, though with a more recent graphics card and hard-drive). It will run pretty much anything satisfactorily, and as for DX11 games, I do use it for games but the only recent one I'm especially interested in is Civ V, for which it meets or exceeds all the minimum requirements.

I used to build a new box every two or three years but it just doesn't seem necessary these days when my five year old one is still working fine. Perhaps when Civ V is fully released (all the expansion packs), I might take the plunge then, but for now I'll stick with XP and my browser of choice, Opera.


By heffeque on 3/15/2011 3:38:53 PM , Rating: 2
This article says that IE9 is slower than the rest of the browsers but... just tested this:
http://demos.hacks.mozilla.org/openweb/HWACCEL/

I get +60fps on IE9.
I get 14 fps on Chrome.
I get 4 fps on Firefox 3.6.

Not everything on IE9 is slow.

Either way, I still use Firefox as my main browser and Chrome and Safari occasionally.


By bug77 on 3/15/2011 4:25:17 PM , Rating: 2
Nice, but I bet you have acceleration off for Chrome. With acceleration on, it gets 60+. And so does FF4.


By EricMartello on 3/15/2011 6:31:29 PM , Rating: 2
I got 23 FPS on FF3.6 and 60+ with the FF4 RC4. I think anything that bypasses GDI for graphics is going to do well, and if it can make use of GPU acceleration that's even better.


By kmmatney on 3/15/2011 7:08:16 PM , Rating: 3
Plenty of people use XP with the latest and greatest software. I have yet to ever play a game (or run any app for that matter) that didn't run on XP.

Some of us also have several computers at our house (seven at mine), and its just not practical to upgrade all of them. Its easier for me to just put chrome on all of them, and forget about IE. Both my wife and I are still using XP at out workplaces as well.


By Silver2k7 on 3/17/2011 7:53:14 AM , Rating: 2
"No, it still means IE9 is the only major browser that doesn't run on WinXP."

If people with XP wanted new software they would not be using XP ;)


By mikeyD95125 on 3/15/2011 4:23:45 PM , Rating: 2
I have read your posts on this topic and I am still confused as to why you support Microsoft on this. As consumer it would be in your best interest to support longer product support cycles.

Have you been tricked by the marketing world to believe that newer is always better?

Remember that while XP debuted ten years ago, Microsoft did not replace the OS until 2006. If you built a machine with decent specs 5-6 years ago XP wold have been your only Microsoft OS option. Machines built around that time still have plenty of processing power for internet and application usage. All those users with XP want (and there are hundreds of millions left) is to use a broswer that will support the latest standards so they can view things on the internet. Since Microsoft said sorry they are forced to turn to alternative browsers.

Expect to see an accelerated decline in IE usage as all the XP diehards move over (if they haven't already) to other browsers.


By kaosstar on 3/16/2011 11:47:36 AM , Rating: 2
Most of the people still using XP are the same kinds of people who are going to use the built in IE no matter what.


By gunzac21 on 3/18/2011 5:37:53 PM , Rating: 2
It is common knowledge that all the "new" browsers ff4 chrome that are gonna be compatible on xp are going to be completely different with little to no improvement. No acceleration or any of that other stuff, so what the point of even making it for xp in the first place??? MS is doing the right thing it's trying to push things forward and give more incentive to move to 7 chrome and ff4 have no reason to do the same.


By ipay on 3/15/2011 12:52:59 PM , Rating: 3
Yes (tricky negative...)


By Shadowmaster625 on 3/15/2011 12:54:33 PM , Rating: 2
Bloat isnt caused by legacy code. Win 98 is 100MB. Win XP is about 1GB. The core components of each are less than half of that (the system32 folder, etc). Yet the WinSXS folder on windows 7 is many many gigabytes. It has nothing to do with supporting legacy code or legacy hardware.


By themaster08 on 3/15/2011 1:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Nothing else in my house forces me to do that!
Sure. Ask the manufacturer of your old '80's TV for a replacement switch, or a radiator for you old 80's refridgerator.

quote:
IE 8 also works, I do not need more. But if there became some virus that made IE8 not work, then I'm screwed. No supported from MS anymore.
You're getting confused. Support for IE 8 won't suddenly disappear because IE 9 is not supported.


By Dr of crap on 3/15/2011 3:22:26 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I know IE8 support will continue, I was making a point about XP.

If the old TV were to break, then I'd have to get another one. Or likewise if the old refridge broke, I might have to get a new one. And if the PC took a dump, I'd have to get a new PC.
But if the PC is working why do I need to get a new one? And why can't I get support for the XP system? That is the problem.


By Silver2k7 on 3/17/2011 7:57:32 AM , Rating: 2
You have support (working browsers) for XP use IE8/Chrome/Netscape/Seamonky/FioreFox or whatever lol.. you can't ask old stuff to be supported forever.


By NobleKain on 3/15/2011 6:32:36 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, using your car example: It's more like the new model coming out with anti-lock breaks, and you complaining that you are being forced to get a new model car in order to get the newest feature (a security feature even at that).

Additionally with your car: Newer vehicles are much more difficult to hotwire, but old vehicles still suffer from the security flaws that make hotwiring possible. Can you simply go to your 1980 car manufacturer and have them change the wiring, and add electronic safety system because you're entitled to not have "flaws"?

Or how about the chassis flaws when it comes to crashes? Are you entitled to a free chassis upgrade on your 1980 vehicle because your current chassis has the flaws that it doesn't have effective "crush zones"?

The engineering required to implement these features USUALLY come with the necessity of a brand new model.

I'm sorry, but your argument doesn't hold. And MOST of the household items you have follow this same pattern. Sure, all of the items have different "lifespan" timelines, but such is the nature of each individual item type. Comparing them based on equivalent timelines is asinine.

Don't take my comments to mean that I don't think IE9 incompatible with XP is a huge mistake... because I DO think it's a huge mistake. But your argument is a weak one.

It's a mistake because many businesses still support XP for important reasons... not the least of which is legacy software compatibility. Security is often a second thought to the large issue of financial investment.

In my office, we still use Visual Studio 2005. Have you ever used 2005 on Vista or Win7? Heck, have you ever even used 2008 on either? Talk about counter-productive. Ultimately, to even make life half as efficient as on XP we have to turn off UAC... but we're still only talking HALF as efficient.

That's just Visual Studio (and its cost can be mitigated with a MSDN subscription), but it still illustrates the point... like it or not, XP still has its place. Win7/Vista was too significant of a platform change to justify attempting to keep the same OS lifecycles.

XP needs a few more years while business-class software gains refinement on Win7. As a consumer platform, Win7 is fine, but given that most IE users are still businesses - not supporting XP is a huge mistake.


By Solandri on 3/15/2011 1:15:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Windows XP is now 10 years old, and people are complaining that Microsoft's latest browser isn't compatible with it?

Well Jason's write-up says that it's best for business use. Most businesses are still on XP. If Microsoft wants businesses to adopt IE9, they're gonna have to make it compatible with XP. I'm not sure the strategy of "encouraging" companies to upgrade to Win 7 by making IE9 not work with XP is gonna work. It's kind of a moot point right now though, since practically no business is going to install a .0 release if their work portal depends on it.

quote:
Is 10 years not long enough?

I think this is the new reality of software. It used to be that computers and software progressed so quickly that it was worth upgrading every few years. But since about the mid-2000s, computers have been "fast enough" for all but a few specialized applications. XP on a 1.6-2 GHz Core or even P4 is more than enough for 90% of business use. They're not gonna upgrade from that just because Intel wants to sell an i5 processor or Microsoft wants to sell a copy of Windows 7.

Most hardware that companies buy is expected to last 5-20 years. Computers and software used to be the exception, typically a 3 year cycle. But looking ahead I think they will normalize to the 5-20 year timeframe of other hardware. If a software vendor isn't willing to accommodate companies in their desire for a slower upgrade cycle, they'll go out of business as companies give their money to software vendors who will accommodate them.


By themaster08 on 3/15/2011 1:25:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If a software vendor isn't willing to accommodate companies in their desire for a slower upgrade cycle, they'll go out of business as companies give their money to software vendors who will accommodate them.
Which in turn further delays the advances in technology until you hit (what feels like) stagnation.


By omnicronx on 3/15/2011 2:21:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Most hardware that companies buy is expected to last 5-20 years.
I hope you are joking, this is not 1995. From my experience refreshes have become smaller and smaller over the years, to the point where for front line worker machines 5+ years would be pushing it.

Nobody in their right mind would expect these kind of machines to work for 20 years. In fact it can be even less cost effective. You now have to hire more workers to test software and such across various lines, let alone the support issues across a vast array of OS/software that can compile during that time.

I think MS went the correct route here. IE9 now boasts probably the best security on the market, and that was just not possible with the underpinnings of Windows XP.

GPU acceleration is a similar issue, they could have gone back and made a half backed solution ala Firefox for XP , or they could focus on a full scale solution using newer and better API's from Vista/7. (and so far it has shown, GPU acceleration seems the most stable on IE9 so far)

Many of the things that has made IE9 so great are either not possible in XP, or would be taking a step back in favor of backwards compatibility.

You can't stay on XP forever, and as time goes on and support diminishes, businesses are not going to have a choice. At some point its going to become more expensive to maintain current systems.


By VitalyTheUnknown on 3/15/2011 4:03:05 PM , Rating: 2
I work with the latest and arguably the best graphic software on the market from "Corel" like "painter" "draw" etc. still on XP machine because frankly I never interact with operating system in any meaningful way at all. For me the process is very simple, turn on the PC; launch a program; work for six hours; save the project; shut down PC; profit.


By FITCamaro on 3/15/2011 6:14:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah by the end of the year the company I work for is going to Windows 7. Windows XP is holding back what I can do on my work PC. I have a quad core CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 1GB graphics card. With a 32-bit OS I can't see all my memory and any task larger than 2GB of memory crashes. This directly effects my work.

I know I'm the exception, not the rule though. For Excel, Word, and Powerpoint, Windows XP 32-bit is plenty. But still, its old. There comes a point that its time to upgrade. And that time has come.


By adiposity on 3/15/2011 4:09:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm with Pirks on this one. Windows XP is now 10 years old, and people are complaining that Microsoft's latest browser isn't compatible with it? Then people complain of the bloat in Microsoft's products that is caused by legacy code. Is 10 years not long enough?


"Windows XP" is not 10 years old. Although RTM was released in August 2001, making it technically less than 10 years old, this is not what I mean.

The operating system that is called "Windows XP" today typically refers to Windows XP SP2/SP3. Windows XP SP2 was arguably as big a refresh as Windows Vista to Windows 7 was.

No one is running this 10-year-old OS that is being used to justify the non-support of anything pre-Vista. SP3 was released in 2008, and until last year, you could still get it pre-installed on computers from Dell, HP, and Lenovo. So, not supporting those users is simply unwise.

Personally, I welcome the death of XP, and use 7 64bit. But over half of all computers are still using XP (last year, MS said 74% of all work computers were still on XP). So can we stop pretending XP is dead already?


By omnicronx on 3/15/2011 5:24:59 PM , Rating: 2
Its 9 1/2 years old.. Was released to the public in October of 2001.

Technicalities aside, it is a 10 year old OS, and everything released after that was merely building on top of that 10 year old base.

The fact that many typically refer to XP as SP2/SP3 (whoever those people may be), is completely irrelevant. Thats not how OS design works.. The basis of Windows XP has remained relatively unchanged since 2001 (driver model, kernel/user levels etc etc), almost 10 years ago. (older if you consider its relation to Windows 2000)

FYI They are supporting the users, all the way up to Internet Explorer 8, the last version MS specifically supports(and will continue to do so). Considering it was released with IE6, I think support promises have been more than met.


By lecanard on 3/15/2011 8:14:09 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft might be trying to kill XP deliberately. They've been trying to convince people to move on for a while now. Remember: in terms of age, using XP now is like using Windows 98 in 2007. Nobody did that. People just became very attached to it because Vista took so long and had a (only fractionally deserved) bad reputation.


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