IE10 for Windows 7: Why the Delay?

By Craig Buckler
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In a recent IEBlog post, Rob Mauceri the IE Group Program Manager announced that Internet Explorer 10 will be available for Windows 7 as a preview during mid-November 2012.

Until now, I assumed IE10 would be released at the same time as Windows 8 — October 26. Microsoft will be busy promoting their new OS so a few days slippage is understandable. But why do Windows 7 users need to wait another three weeks? Even then, it won’t be the full version but a limited “preview”?

There are several reasons why IE10 is important to the web industry:

  1. The browser should provide many of the HTML5 and CSS3 features we take for granted in Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Opera.
  2. IE9 was released on March 14, 2011. It’s already 19 months old — an eon in web time.
  3. Microsoft has finally promised automated browser updates.
  4. IE10 makes IE8 two versions old; an important psychological gap. Google announced they will drop IE8 testing although, like me, they assumed IE10 would be generally available from October 26.

Why the delay? I can only presume Microsoft encountered technical issues, although that seems strange given Window 8 is largely based on Windows 7 architecture. If that is the case, could there be subtly different versions of IE10 leading to further fragmentation of the user base:

  • Windows 8: IE10 only
  • Windows 7: IE8, 9 or 10 (Windows 7 edition?)
  • Windows Vista: IE7, 8 or 9
  • Windows XP: IE6, 7 or 8

At the time of writing, Windows 7 holds approximately 53% of the OS market. XP has a little over 25% and Vista’s share is 7%. Even if it’s a commercial success, Windows 8 usage will remain negligible for several months. IE10 will not be available to the majority of Windows users.

This leads to one conclusion: dropping IE8 support is premature. Google and the jQuery 2.0 development teams may need to reconsider their actions.

Microsoft’s blog post attracted a stream of criticism. I’ve no doubt this article will receive a share of “IE is dead to me” comments. To many developers, supporting Internet Explorer is a waste of effort. I don’t agree. We should endeavor to support as many browsers as practically possible, especially when IE holds a third of the market. We can even make sites work in IE6, IE7 and IE8 with little additional effort or hacking. However, Microsoft’s announcement will test the patience of the most fanatical IE developers.

If we disregard Google and Mozilla’s rapid updates, Opera has a fraction of Microsoft’s resources and can release multiple browser versions for Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, Windows Mobile, Mac OSX, Linux, FreeBSD, iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Nokia every six to twelve months. Microsoft has few excuses for delaying the release of IE10 on their current OS.

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  • Q.E.D.

    Microsoft needs to decide whether they are in the browser business or not. They are trying to play both sides. On the one hand, they want to compete and have a seat at the table in determining what browser technologies get implemented, and that makes total sense given their history and insistence in basing IE and their own Windows Explorer on similar technologies. On the other hand, they have already ceded the market for other OS’s by discontinuing IE for Mac (many moons ago). Now they are ceding the browser war for their own operating systems. By choosing not to allow upgrades of IE on XP, Vista, and possibly 7, they think that they are prompting users to upgrade their OS, but in reality people will keep the OS that works for them (I’m on XP right now) and change their browser. The only reason that Microsoft isn’t building an HTML5/CSS3 browser for older Windows OS’s is to get people to buy their latest OS; after all, even Opera can build an HTML5/CSS3 browser for XP!

    • James Andrew

      What he said. Couldn’t agree more. Certainly couldn’t have written it as concisely and clearly!

  • Steve

    I disagree that jQuery in version 2.0 and above dropping IE8 support is a bad idea. They had to drop the dead weight at some point and the 1.x series will continue to support IE8. The only way to progress is to move forward and IE8 is/was holding them/us back.

    There’s a large portion of the jQuery codebase that is dedicated to testing browser conditions to overcome old IE bugs that can be dropped once IE8 support is dropped.

    Now as a site/app developer supporting IE6,IE7,IE8 is up to you and you’ll have to decide the right threshold of pain vs. profit. However if you are building a brand new site today… I would only just support IE8. IE6/IE7 support would not be present from day 1.

    • For me, the primary reason to use jQuery is legacy browser support. Once you drop the IE8- code, jQuery will become an abstraction for native JavaScript APIs; there will be less reason to use it.

      Dropping IE6 and 7 is probably OK, but IE8 seems premature.

      • Andrew

        If the primary reason you use jQuery is for legacy browser support, then you’ve missed the advantages of jQuery altogether and You’re Doing It Wrong™

      • Enlighten me? What’s your main reason for using jQuery?

        The main issues the jQuery core solves are inconsistent event handling, DOM manipulation and Ajax. Prior to CSS3, I’d have included animation too. However, by dropping IE6/7/8, the API differences between the browsers are negligible.

        In essence, jQuery 2+ will put a slightly nicer layer on top of the native browser APIs, e.g.

        function $(selector) { return document.querySelectorAll(selector); }

        (Not real code, but it demonstrates the point). The reasons for using jQuery will diminish.

      • James Andrew

        I’m not a professional but my jaw dropped open at the suggestion that jQuery is *primarily* a browser support shim.

        To my mind it’s THE mainstream “cool bells and whistles” tool which requires itself to include “browser smoothing features” to maintain a standard code syntax. If there aren’t libraries with smaller footprints aimed purely at smoothing inconsistencies I’d be surprised.

        I’ve never used jQuery on my own small projects merely because I have the impression that it carries ten times the power and features that I actually require at any one time.

      • jQuery is not a shim. Neither is it a standard — unlike JavaScript and the browser APIs. It certainly smooths out inconsistencies, but those inconsistencies are mostly prevalent in IE6, 7 and 8.

        IE9, Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera all implement identical DOM, event and Ajax handling APIs. jQuery 2+ is abstracting them to a nicer syntax at the expense of making them slightly slower and possibly less useful, e.g. no live DOM collections.

        Don’t get me wrong — jQuery’s great. But there will be less reason to use it as legacy IEs die out.

      • James Andrew

        When I wrote “shim” in my post above, I knew it would be awkward. I do not understand the official differences or definitions of “shim”, “polyfill” and the like. To me, anything which exists merely to ensure that the same command can be expected to have the same effect in a variety of systems gets thrown into the “shim” camp. I apologise therefore for any imprecision.

        However, given that definition, if you believe that the primary reason to use jQuery is for those results, I call that using it as a shim. Personally I believe that most people use it to get the wow effects which are merely using the shim functions to be reliable.

        If you’re right, then there will of course be far less reason to use jQuery as ‘shim’ use becomes less necessary. Alternatively, maybe usage of jQuery will simply drop as browsers incorporate more functionality via web standards (case in point being rounded corners a few years ago).

        All that being said, I’m not in the industry, don’t pretend to understand everything and am merely an interested amateur whose witterings probably shouldn’t appear on the esteemed pages of Sitepoint!

      • We welcome anyone, James!

        What you need to realize is that jQuery is a JavaScript library written in JavaScript for JavaScript developers. It can only do what raw JavaScript allows because it is raw JavaScript! It introduced concepts such as selecting elements using CSS selectors, but that is now implemented natively in all browsers (including IE8).

        jQuery is useful when you need a feature such as an Ajax in all browsers. Most browsers natively support XMLHttpRequest. IE6 doesn’t — but it has an ActiveX implementation which is virtually indistinguishable. So jQuery provides $.ajax() methods so you don’t need to worry about the nitty gritty cross-browser details.

        But, if you’re not worried about IE6, all browsers support XMLHttpRequest. jQuery makes it easier to use by hiding or abstracting some of the functionality, but you could easily use the native object instead.

    • Wowzer, IE8, that’s like 20% of my users!

  • With so many unstable IE releases, if IE 10 fails, I think MS would back out from browser business :)

    • Microsoft needs a foothold on the web. Also, IE is very far from being a failure. That big blue “e” means “Internet” for a large minority of web users.

  • ” Opera has a fraction of Microsoft’s resources and can release multiple browser versions for Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, Windows Mobile, Mac OSX, Linux, FreeBSD, iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Nokia every six to twelve months. Microsoft has few excuses for delaying the release of IE10 on their current OS. ”


    • Stevie D

      Exactly. Opera – with consistently the most advanced and fully-featured browser available for more than 10 years – can make browsers that work on just about every OS with more than a 0.1% market share. Why do Microsoft not? It can’t be a lack of know-how, this is Microsoft we’re talking about … it’s just about tying people into the latest version of Windows and bullying them into upgrading.

  • I agree with you 100%, Q.E.D.
    Also, I feel that there is no reason why Microsoft shouldn’t support Windows Vista with Internet Explorer 10.

    • 8000860

      In the same reason as BW022 wrote: people do not buy newer OS then. You can see that from stupid official MS’s explanations about IE10 for Vista.

  • Rob Cannon

    I think Microsoft should have released IE 10 6 months ago (a version ready for production, of course). That would have shown their commitment to HTML 5 standards.

  • Andrew

    It’s still a good news that we win7 users can use IE10. Don’t like IE9, hope IE10 can change my impression for IE. I have switch to other browser for about two year. Can’t stand the script error I got from IE9. Now I mainly use chrome, firefox and Avant browser three browsers. They all perform better than IE.
    How will IE 10 change my mind.I’ll wait.

  • Craig, I agree with you. As long as we have WinXP in the market (mainly businesses I think), we will need to support IE8. It’s already a success if we can drop IE7 support (which I can’t right now, since some of my customers still use it in their organizations).

  • Ryan

    Imagine if every single developer updated their website with the same “Upgrade to IE9+ or these browsers” Javascript Page for every website.

    I’m sure a lot of users would suddenly push standards closer to where they should be..

  • IE is the best browser of the world for download another browser.

    • 8000860

      First part was smart… second part is dumb… but enough for 12 years old kid.

  • BW022

    I hate to move to conspiracy theories, but… maybe this is intentional. Maybe they are worried that people won’t upgrade to Windows8 and they realize that if IE10 was readily available a lot more users would say “Then why upgrade?” For a lot of home users… browser support is certainly on the top of the list of things they care about.

    • 8000860

      Exactly! Agree! I’m pretty sure that this is the main reason for delay.