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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