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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 Dr of crap on 3/15/2011 1:12:28 PM , Rating: 0
Why should I be forced to pay to -
1 - upgrade my PC to run something other than XP - it works fine.
2 - Have to upgrade to a newer PC - again my XP machine works fine.
3 - I do not need cutting edge speed. And like most people I do internet exploring, email, Word, and Excel on my XP machine. It works and it has worked for many years.
4 - If I had a car from 1980, I could still put gas in it, change the oil, and use it everyday if I wanted. Why do I need to get new electronics do keep going?

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.

Yet again back to the 1980 car. I can still get parts if it needs repair. Why not support the XP and IE8 to keep my old PC going?
Why will I be forced to, and here's the thing, forced to BUY and UPGRADE??

It works fine as it is. Especially when people have to pay $4 gas, and food costs more, and here's my XP working fine. But if there becomes a security issue, I'm forced to upgrade. Nothing else in my house forces me to do that!

By themaster08 on 3/15/2011 1:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
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.

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.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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