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 Chrome, Opera, 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
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
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
catalog is anemic to say the least. Firefox, Opera, and
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
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
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.
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