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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 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.


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